Were you recently terminated from your job? Do you suspect or know it was retaliation?
Some employers unfortunately retaliate against employees for a variety of actions like reporting a manager or reporting the company to the health department or OSHA. Even though workers have rights and retaliation is illegal, it happens frequently.
People get fired all the time for discriminatory reasons, like being a whistleblower, being pregnant, taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or simply for being a particular gender.
If you’ve been unfairly terminated, here’s what you need to do next.
- Lawyer up
After an illegal termination, your first move should be to call a wrongful termination attorney. Regardless of why you were fired, an attorney can help you recover compensation. Depending on the situation, you might recover thousands or even millions of dollars in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Getting fired can be a traumatic experience, especially when it’s the unexpected result of standing up for yourself. It takes time to find a new job and, in the meantime, you don’t have a source of income. Wrongful termination can disrupt your life.
A termination lawyer will provide relief during this stressful time. You’ll be able to breathe a little deeper knowing someone is working on getting justice for your situation. Having a wrongful termination lawyer means you’re not alone and you don’t have to figure anything out – that’s their job. All you need to do is provide information.
- Organize your documentation
Make a point to organize all of the notes you’ve been taking about your wrongful termination, whether they’re handwritten notes or documents on the computer. Type up all of your notes and organize everything into a neat timeline. This will make it easier for you and your attorney to reference the information.
For example, did you get fired after taking family medical leave? Did you experience unwelcome sexual advances? Document the time and date of each incident. Or, if you were in a hostile work environment, what made it uncomfortable? Document every situation you can recall that contributed to that environment.
Once your information is neatly organized into a timeline on the computer, print several copies of those documents. Keep a couple copies for yourself and give one to your attorney. Good documentation will help you prove your case.
- Gather witness statements
If you’ve got the names and contact information for several witnesses, that’s not enough. Try to get statements from your witnesses so that you can share them with your attorney. If you wait until the last minute to get statements from a witness, they might change their mind by the time they’re asked to share.
Getting statements right away is the best thing you can do for your case. While it’s possible that some statements might not be admissible in court, it will still give your attorney a head start on winning your case. They’ll be better informed, and they’ll know which witnesses to prioritize during your case.
File a complaint with the right agency
Discrimination needs to be reported to the appropriate regulatory agency, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
If you’re not sure which agency to file a report with, your attorney can help you with that. Depending on what state you’re in, there might be a state agency that needs to know about your situation.
Reporting your employer to a regulatory agency might force them to pay a fine and change the way they do business. It will help to establish a record of their actions. This record will help others who have the same or similar claim as you in the future.
- Don’t accept a severance package without a lawyer
Sometimes it’s a good idea to accept some money and drop all legal claims, but not always. Whether you’re working under a contract or at-will employment, you have rights.
If an employer is offering you money to avoid a lawsuit, they probably believe you’re going to win even more compensation through the courts. Or, they might not want to have their reputation tarnished.
If your employer offers a severance package in exchange for your promise not to sue, don’t accept the offer until you’ve spoken with an attorney.
If your employment contract entitles you to a severance package upon termination, you don’t have to waive your right to file a lawsuit in order to get your money since it’s in your contract.
Don’t wait to act, every minute counts
If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, don’t wait to contact an attorney. There is a statute of limitations, so act as quickly as possible.