March 27, 2023

Wrongful Termination: What is it? What are my options?

In the current economy, the job market can often be harsh. Unfortunately, many Americans have lost their jobs, and many businesses have performed lay-offs or dismissed employees. Most businesses practice care to ethically dismiss employees. But what about those that don’t?

Washington is an at-will state, which means that an employer may dismiss an employee for any reason beyond those prohibited by state and federal law. This is the standard employment agreement in Washington, unless there is an implied or explicit contract between the employer and employee that permits dismissal only for identified reasons. (For more information about employment practices prohibited by state and federal law, read our blog post “Discrimination in Employment”).

Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is dismissed based on discriminatory factors prohibited by state and federal law (such as race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information) or when an employer violates the dismissal terms of the employee’s contract. For example, an employer may not decide to perform lay-offs of the oldest employees in the company, as this would constitute discrimination based on age. An employer also may not agree to dismiss an employee only for good cause and later terminate the employee for a trivial reason (unrelated to the business, for example).

The loss of a job is already awful, without the added feeling that you were terminated unfairly. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information; or that your employer has violated the termination terms of your contract, it is vital that you know your options.

If your termination was based on your race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information, you can report this discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office near you. The EEOC can investigate, mediate, and file a lawsuit.

If your termination was discriminatory or was a breach of your contract, Washington law also allows you to file a private lawsuit with your own attorney (This law is especially beneficial to those who do not receive satisfactory results with the EEOC.) Wrongful termination lawsuits can pursue and grant you reinstatement to your job, back pay, compensation for suffering, and attorney fees. A lawsuit may also help to protect future employees of the company by financially penalizing the company for the unethical behavior and by requiring the company to change their policies.

If you have been wrongfully terminated, contact the attorneys at W. Todd Pascoe, PLLC for more information about your legal options specific to your case.

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