What is a wrongful termination in Alabama?

One of the most common questions we receive from potential clients is how they determine whether they have a case for wrongful termination in Alabama.  Losing your job can be one of the toughest experiences in life.  It is very rare when an employee agrees with the reason for termination and sometimes no explanation is provided by the employer at all.   In at-will employment state, like Alabama, there is nothing illegal about terminating an employee’s job for a false reason or no reason at all.  So how can an Alabama resident know if they have been wrongfully terminated?

To determine whether you have been wrongfully terminated, the first question is often to consider whether you have suffered unlawful discrimination.  Federal civil rights laws protect employees in Alabama and every other state from discrimination related to race, gender, age, disability, pregnancy, religion, and national origin.  While these general categories are somewhat helpful in understanding when a termination might be “wrongful,” it requires fairly complicated analysis to determine whether the employer has engaged in discriminatory conduct.

While this is likely an issue to discuss with an Alabama employment attorney, discrimination claims usually involve being terminated for the same conduct committed by another outside your protected group (such as, an employee of a different race or gender) who was not punished.  It is important in discussing this issue with an employment attorney to have specifics regarding the company’s policy, the names and titles of other employees who violated the policy, and how you were treated differently.  Documents and witness statements can be critical to prove your wrongful termination based on discrimination case.

Another type of wrongful termination occurs when an employee complains to management or Human Resources regarding discrimination or sexual harassment and is then terminated a short time after the complaint.  This is called unlawful retaliation.  There are two important factors to evaluate in retaliation cases 1) did you make a protected complaint (i.e. one about discrimination) and 2) did you suffer termination within a short timeframe (usually three months or less) after making the protected complaint.

One thing to keep in mind with retaliation by an employer is only illegal in certain circumstances.  If you are fired or punished for a general complaint, then your complaint likely does not give you a right to sue for unlawful conduct.  However, if you specifically complain about race discrimination, gender or pregnancy discrimination, or sexual harassment then you may have a civil claim for retaliation.  Thus, the type of complaint you make is sometimes just as an important as how the employer reacts to that complaint.

Finally, there are a few other types of claims that may lead to a wrongful termination.  An employee may be terminated when they come back from medical leave under FMLA.  They may also be a whistleblower who has made the employer aware of some unlawful conduct that is occurring in the workplace. These whistleblower claims have to relate very specific complaints and they are much less common than discrimination and retaliation claims.

Our Alabama employment lawyers have substantial experience assisting employees with wrongful termination cases.  If you think you might have a claim, please call us today at (205) 588-0699 for a free consultation.  We are happy to assist employees across the State of Alabama evaluate whether they have been wrongfully terminated.

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