Washington D.C., Maryland Employment Law- Wrongful Termination Lawyer
What actions constitute a wrongful termination?
These days, workplace dynamics can see much job change. Employers terminate employees for whatever reason. However, not all job terminations are legal. Some wrongful terminations violate principles of contract law, public policy or a statutory protected right.
The first thing we ask for when we meet with you is whether you had any written contract with your employer. That is a critical document for our office to review because that will help determine whether your employment was, “at-will” a legal term for a work place arrangement in which in the legal sense means that the either party, the employer or employee, can terminate the workplace arrangement at any time. Generally speaking, in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, in the absence of a written contract to the contrary, the employee will be deemed to be “at will.”
We also may want to review any employee handbook, memos, emails, anything at all which may lead a reasonable employee to believe that he or she is not “at will.” Furthermore, any discussions you may have had with your employer, at any time, may be relevant in determining “at will” status.
If you are found not to be “at will” and the employer commenced a wrongful termination action against you, the issue of contract breach arises. In that case, a Court may be asked to decide which party was at fault in breaching the contract. If the Court determines that the employer committed a wrongful termination in violation of the contract, you may be entitled to back pay and attorney fees.
Even if you are not “at will”, you may still have a case if the employer violated a state or federal statute, you reported that violation to proper authorities and were terminated because of the reporting. This is more commonly known as “whistle blowing” and it is absolutely prohibited for an employer, private or public to engage in wrongful termination of an employee who blew the whistle on such employer. Federal employees have special protections against wrongful termination for whistle blowing under the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board, for reporting not only violations of law, but for fraud, waste or abuse of public funds.
A "wrongful termination" claim can also surface when the employer's actual reason for the wrongful termination is based on discrimination of a protected basis, including race, religion, age, sex, disability, or national origin. Should this occur, a complaint should be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), a federal agency that serves to investigate and enforce discrimination statutes. Also, Maryland residents should file with the state agency that parallels the EEOC. In Maryland, the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights investigates these claims and in Washington, DC, complaints should be filed with the Office of Human Rights.
What should I do if I suffered a wrongful termination?
You should immediately move to protect your rights by contacting an employment lawyer who has experience in dealing with wrongful termination law. There is a Statute of limitations that bars recovery if an action is not taken within a defined period of time. Depending upon the jurisdiction or theory of the case, the time period may be different. Also, federal employees have even shorter periods of time and several additional administrative deadlines that must be followed because they are strictly enforced.
Aside of the statute of Limitations issues, practically, if you let a significant amount of time go by before you take any action on your case, you may be damaging certain components of your case without even realizing it. There may be witnesses willing to come forward with critical information about your wrongful termination that your employment lawyer may not have access to at a later date. Even if these witnesses are fearful in participating in a wrongful termination action, we may be at least able to secure their present and future contact information and we could likely compel their testimony at depositions as well. Important documents may be secured sooner rather than later down the road. Finally, your employer, for whatever reason, may be better positioned to settle a wrongful termination claim sooner after you’ve been terminated, rather than many months or years later. For example, if your company at a later date files for bankruptcy protection, they may be legally discharged from paying any judgment on a wrongful termination lawsuit.
What can I expect at a consultation on a wrongful termination case?
Upon meeting with us, we will discuss your case fact by fact, and review the events in a slow motion type of manner. As the events are replayed to us, we ask you some pointed questions regarding certain details that occurred, to give us an indication whether your case can meet the legal elements of a wrongful termination claim. A good employment lawyer should at the end of the consultation, leave you with an impression as to whether the wrongful termination action is worth pursuing and the benefits of taking action against your employer.
We also review the damages you may be entitled to under the law and provide counsel to you on the best way to protect a potential wrongful termination damages award against the company’s or government agency wrongful termination lawyers. For example, we review with you the law that requires a wrongful termination victim to mitigate his back pay damages, by attempting to secure other employment. From day one of your wrongful termination, we advise you on the best way to keep journals or diaries of your mitigation efforts and specifically the kinds of documents that the Courts expect you to retain in this respect. In short, our office will map out a strategy, custom made for your specific situation. We then share that strategy with you, so we can work together in bringing about the best possible result for your case.