It’s a crappy feeling when you’re called into your boss’s office, promptly fired, and given a box for your things. There might have been hints that your boss was hoping to get rid of you, but in some cases a firing could be a complete, unpleasant surprise. Whatever you do, don’t lash out in anger, thinking it will somehow make the situation better. However, do take stock of how you were fired – in some cases, your employer might have illegally given you the boot.
Each year, about 150,000 people are wrongfully terminated in the United States. In those cases, former employees might be able to win a lawsuit that would either reinstate them or provide a settlement to tide them over while they’re in the market for a new job. However, keep in mind that a majority of workers in the United States are “at-will” employees, meaning their employers can fire them at almost any time, for almost any reason. (Hint: If you’re not covered by a union contract, you’re most likely an at-will employee.) “Just as you are free to leave a job whenever you please, the employer can fire you whenever he, she or it pleases,” one employment site explains.
It could seem like employees don’t have many rights to keeping their jobs in that scenario, but there are numerous statutes in place that protect employees from being fired illegally. Here’s a few situations to look out for, to know if you should contact an employment lawyer. Cases and laws vary by state, so also make sure to check out your state and federal laws before taking action.