A wrongful termination is one in which an employer has discharged or laid off an employee in violation of a legal right of the employee. It is not enough for the employee to simply show that he/she was treated unfairly but the person must show that the firing was “wrongful” meaning one or more legal rights were violated. Almost every state has adopted the legal concept of “employment at will” which developed in England centuries ago and means that it is presumed that the employer has the right to terminate someone with or without a reason and likewise the employee has the right to quit at any time with or without a reason. There are a number of exceptions to the employee at will doctrine that vary depending upon where the person worked.

The severity of each of these violations can vary based on the laws broken. Some can result in statutory penalties, while others mean that the employer must pay the wrongfully terminated employer for lost wages, expenses, and punitive damages.

Wrongful termination complaints can be filed one of two ways: with a government agency that enforces labor laws, or in a private lawsuit. If your employer’s violation is subject to a specific part of state or federal law. In cases in which the employer violates public or even company policy, a private lawsuit is often the only way to settle disputes.