What You Must Know About Wrongful Termination and Lawyers

I’ve been wrongfully terminated.

Almost every potential client who calls me says the same thing: “I’ve been wrongfully terminated.” But when I ask for details, hardly anyone can explain the details of this alleged “wrongful termination.”

If you search the internet, you’ll find the term “wrongful termination” everywhere.  Actually, though, there is no such thing as “wrongful termination.”  This is just a general term to describe when an employee has been fired for reasons that are illegal.

The most difficult part of these cases usually is determining the reason for termination—and whether it actually was illegal. The termination may be unfair. But there is a big difference between unfair and illegal.

When you contact a lawyer, the lawyer’s job is to take the facts specific to your situation and determine whether your employer did something that violated a state or federal law. The lawyer looks for facts to prove the employer’s conduct was illegal—not just unfair.

In Texas, unless you have an employment contract for a specific term (and few people do), then you are an employee at will. This means you can be terminated at any time—for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. Similarly, you can quit at any time—again for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

There are limited exceptions to employment at will.  Most people are familiar with the state and federal statutes that protect employees from discrimination because of a certain protected class (such as race, age, gender, national origin, or disability). There also are statutes protecting employees from employer retaliation for engaging in protected conduct (like, for example, reporting a potential claim of discrimination).

What does all of this mean for you?

When you call a lawyer to talk about whether you have an employment claim, be prepared to provide details explaining why you think your firing was illegal. Be prepared to answer pointed questions from the lawyer that focus on determining whether the reason you think you got fired actually violates the law. Think of it this way: the lawyer has a round hole to fill.  If the only facts you give the lawyer are square pegs, then the lawyer might not be able to assert a claim on your behalf because your square pegs will never fill the legal round hole.

You can help your lawyer figure out if you have a good claim by first preparing a detailed timeline of events and a list of people involved. Your lawyer can then walk through the timeline with you to see if the facts and events fit into a category in which the lawyer can assert a claim. When you look at the facts surrounding your situation, try to take the emotion out of it.  Again, unfair may not be illegal.  But when you organize your facts and your thoughts, you will make it far easier for the lawyer to determine whether you have been wrongfully terminated.

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