At-Will Employment & Wrongful Termination
The most common call our office receives is from individuals that feel they were wrongfully terminated. Wrongful termination is a very broad and sometimes misleading term. Therefore, we have provided some basic facts regarding wrongful termination and at-will employment in Kentucky and Indiana below to help you better understand these terms. As this area of law is complex and can be very case specific, it is important to use this merely as a brief summary of the law. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your place of employment, contact an employment law attorney at Miller and Falkner to discuss the facts of your case.
Kentucky and Indiana follow the doctrine of "at-will" employment. Under this doctrine, employees who are considered “at-will” can be fired or demoted by their employer for a good reason, bad reason or no reason at all without having any legal recourse. Most employees are at-will employees. Employees who are not considered to be at-will include members of a union and employees who have entered into an employment contract with their employer that includes a specific duration of time that they will be employed. Numerous exceptions to this doctrine exist for employees who are considered at-will, giving some protection to employees. For example, an employer cannot terminate or demote an employee for an unlawful discriminatory reason such as their race or gender. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who reports safety complaints or to retaliate against an employee because of their use of family medical leave. These examples are exceptions to the "at-will" doctrine that allow at-will employees to bring a suit against their employer for wrongful termination or demotion.
Steps to take if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated
If you have been demoted or terminated, take the following steps to protect your rights and preserve any potential wrongful termination claim you may have:
- Don't retaliate against your employer. After being demoted or terminated, feelings are often very raw and many employees feel hurt or betrayed. While these feelings are very valid, acting on these emotions and lashing out at your former employer will not help.
- Contact an employment law attorney at Miler and Falkner for advice regarding your potential claim.
- If you have an employment contract, locate a copy of this contract to share with your attorney.
- Inquire about the reasons for your termination and ask decided to terminate you.
- Through your attorney, request and negotiate a severance package.
- Follow all oral agreements regarding your termination and severance with a confirmation of the agreements in writing.
- Do not allow yourself to be intimidated. Do not agree to sign documents until you have had the opportunity to thoroughly review them.
- Return any and all company property in your possession to your employer and follow any other common post-employment procedures.
contact an employment law attorney at Miller and Falkner for a free initial consultation. We will discuss the facts of your case to determine whether you may have a claim for wrongful termination.
The Effect of Unions on At-Will Employment
If you are a member of a union, then the terms of your employment are covered by a union contract (sometimes referred to as a collective bargaining agreement or CBA). In many cases, this union contract will provide union member employees with some additional protections from being terminated without good cause. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated and that your rights under your union agreement have been violated, your union will have a “grievance” procedure available to you which will allow your union to file a grievance on your behalf against the employer. While your union is under an obligation to fairly represent you, it may decide not to pursue your grievance further if it determines that your case does not have enough merit. This is legally permissible so long as the union has taken reasonable steps to investigate your potential case. It is still important however to first file a grievance with your union before proceeding with a claim in court.
If you are a member of a union and have been laid off or terminated for what you feel may be unlawful reasons, you should contact an employment law attorney at Miller and Falkner to determine if you have a claim. An employment attorney can help determine if there are any legal remedies available, including lost wages. An employment attorney at Miller and Falkner can also help negotiate a severance package with adequate compensation, should one be appropriate.
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