In April of 2020, alone, over 7,000 people were terminated from their position. There are a number of reasons that an employer may fire you, but not all of those reasons are truthful or justifiable.
In fact, wrongful terminations happen more often than you may think. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee based on discriminatory beliefs, retaliation for whistleblowing, failure on the employer’s end to meet a contract agreement, and more.
The question is, how do you prove wrongful termination? You’ll need to bulk up your evidence to avoid an employer says/employee says situation.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to prove wrongful termination.
First Thing’s First: Hire a Lawyer
You’re probably wondering, is it hard to prove wrongful termination? The answer is oftentimes, yes. Some of your employer’s actions, such as discrimination, can be hard to prove after the fact.
However, your chances go up significantly when you hire a wrongful termination lawyer. A wrongful termination lawyer can help ground you in reality while you’re dealing with the shock or anger over your termination. They are experts when it comes to termination laws and will know right away if you have a strong case that’s worth fighting for.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Termination? A Step-by-Step Guide
Even with a wrongful termination lawyer, you’ll still want to know what to expect going in. Remember, these kinds of cases don’t solve themselves and they don’t come to fruition overnight. Let’s take a look at the steps that go into proving a wrongful termination case to ensure that you’re mentally prepared for the road ahead of you.
1. Gather All Employment Documents
Your employment documents are your hard evidence. Any written agreements, assessments, or files can help to build your case. Ultimately, the goal is to prove that you were either receiving solid feedback from clients and employers or that you were under a contract that was broken during your termination.
You’re going to want a complete copy of your personnel file, including any reviews you received over the course of your employment. You will also want any and all contracts or agreements between you and your employers, memos sent to or received from your employers, and pay stubs.
You will also need your notice of termination if it was given to you in writing as well as your employee handbook or guidelines. That way, your lawyer can determine that your reason for termination is not allowed under workplace policy.
2. Create a Timeline
The next step is to create a detailed timeline of your employment and termination. In most wrongful termination cases, your lawyer will need to know more than just the events that occurred in the weeks or days before your termination. These cases often involve long-term issues created by employers.
In your timeline, include the dates of all reviews you received as well as anyone involved in your termination. This includes HR personnel, colleagues, higher-ups, and sometimes even clients.
Go into as much detail as possible regarding what happened on the day of your termination. Who spoke to you and what did they say? What was their behavior and where did the final termination occur?
All of these details matter, even the ones that seem inconsequential. Be sure to include as much information about your own words and actions as well, even if they are not flattering. Your lawyer needs to prepare for what your employer’s version of events may be.
3. Assess Any Broken Laws
There are a number of laws in place to protect employees from wrongful termination. The most widely known law comes from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This protects employees from discrimination based on sex (including gender and sexual identity), race, color, religion, and national origin.
In addition to Title VII, there a number of lesser-known laws in place to protect employees. They cover issues such as age, disabilities, pregnancy, whistleblowing, and more.
Breach of contract is also illegal and is, of course, easiest to prove when the contract was written. Oral contracts are legitimized as long as there is some written acknowledgment, like a memo or email, of the spoken agreement. Implied contracts occur when an employer behaves in a way that creates an implicit contract but this is much harder to prove and not all states recognize the legitimacy of implied contracts.
4. Find Witnesses or Supporting Evidence
Did anyone witness the negative pattern of behavior or the wrongful termination, itself, that would be willing to vouch for you? Having a witness to corroborate your story adds legitimacy to your case and is extremely beneficial if most of the details are not in writing.
Alternatively, in cases of discrimination, having supporting evidence is key. Supporting evidence is any incident provided by a third party establishing patterns of behavior that bolster your claim.
Take, for example, a case involving gender discrimination. Finding other women in the office who have also been the victim of harassment or gender-based discrimination at the hands of your employer will strengthen your case. If other employees are willing to testify that they’ve heard the employer make sexist remarks or behave in misogynistic ways, this will also strengthen your case.
Wrongful Termination Proof Is All in the Details
If you’ve been fired unfairly, you’re probably asking, how do you prove wrongful termination? The reality is that the proof is all in the details, from the paperwork to the timeline. If specific laws were broken and you have witnesses to prove it, you’re sure to win your claim against your former employer.
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, it’s important to make sure that the workplace is organized, comfortable, and compliant with all relevant laws. Having pre-written letters and forms can make this task easier. Take a look at the many tools and templates we offer to ensure that your workplace isn’t the subject of any major issues.