Under both Kentucky and Indiana law, the topic of “wrongful termination” is quite complicated, and is often confusing to people who believe they have been terminated in violation of their legal rights. We receive many calls from people who want to bring claims against former employers on this basis. Wrongful termination claims are very fact-specific, with legal rights that depend heavily on individual circumstances. If you believe that your employer has wrongfully terminated you, a knowledgeable Louisville employment lawyer can review your case, help you understand your rights, and work with you to pursue any legal claims that may be available to you.
Indiana and Kentucky are known as “at-will” employment states, meaning that employers have a wide range of discretion regarding employees who do not have an employment contract and are not members of a union. Employers may fire or demote at-will employees for almost any cause, or no cause at all. Exceptions include protections against discriminatory or retaliatory firings, and terminations that violate employers’ own established policies. Wrongful termination is very difficult for a former employee to prove in the absence of a violation of an employment policy, contractual term, or statute.
Contractual Employment & Union Agreements
If an employment contract includes provisions for the duration of employment, or conditions for termination by the employer, an employee may have a claim for breach of contract if the employer does not abide by the contractual terms.
Employees who are members of a union that has a collective bargaining agreement with an employer have rights against terminations that do not follow the terms of the agreement. If you believe that your rights were violated under your union agreement, your union will have a “grievance” procedure you can follow, and which will allow your union to take action on your behalf. However, if your union does not believe your case has enough merit, it may not pursue your claim beyond filing the grievance against your employer. This is allowed as long as your union has adequately investigated your case. While it is important to pursue the union grievance process before taking action in court, if you feel you are in need of an advocate for your rights, a skilled employment attorney at Miller & Falkner can evaluate your case and help you identify your legal options.
Discrimination & Retaliation
Employers may not discriminate against employees based on certain protected categories. These categories vary from state to state, and individual cities may have their own anti-discrimination laws. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and national origin, and many state and local laws model their protections off of these categories and others. It is not lawful for an employer to take any adverse employment action, including termination, against an employee in violation of these anti-discrimination standards.
Similarly, many state and federal laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee, including through termination, for asserting rights available to them under state or federal law. This could include reporting unsafe working conditions or workplace harassment, or making use of family medical leave. Therefore, even if you are an at-will employee, your employer cannot fire you to punish or retaliate against you for exercising these rights.
Steps to Take If You Believe You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is critical that you protect your legal claim. This requires you to do certain things and refrain from other things:
- Do not retaliate against your employer. Though you may rightfully and legitimately feel that your employer has taken unacceptable and even illegal actions against you, retaliating will not help.
- Do not let your employer intimidate you. Do not sign anything until you have had an opportunity to review it with your own attorney.
- Contact Miller & Falkner’s employment attorneys for advice regarding your potential claim.
- Locate a copy of your employment contract, if applicable.
- Ask your employer why you are being fired.
- Get your attorney’s help to negotiate a severance package.
- Follow through on all agreements, oral or written, related to your termination, and get written confirmation.
- Return any company property, and complete any other standard post-employment procedures.
State and federal laws protect employees in Kentucky and Indiana from many types of employment discrimination, retaliation, and other wrongful acts by employers. If you have been wrongfully terminated by your employer, you should seek the assistance of an experienced Kentucky employment attorney, who can help you assert your rights to lost wages and other amounts. We can also help you negotiate a severance package if appropriate in your case. At Miller & Falkner, we have been helping clients in Indiana and Kentucky with their employment and labor law needs since 2003. Contact us today online or at (502) 583-2300 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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