What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination is when someone is fired or let go from their employment for an illegal reason. Minnesota is an “at-will” employment state, which means that employers can fire employees for any reason, unless it is an illegal reason. Even if the termination is unfair, unethical, bad business practice, or just stupid, they are still within their rights to terminate you. However, this also allows employees to leave for any reason as well.
To win a case, you will have to show that you were terminated for an illegal reason.
How Do I Know if I Have Been Wrongfully Terminated?
You have been wrongfully terminated if the reason for your termination was illegal. Common illegal reasons include termination because of discrimination, retaliation, and whistleblowing.
Examples of discrimination include unjust or different treatment based on your race, age, sex, disability, or sexual orientation under Minnesota state and federal law.
Retaliation can look like termination or any other adverse action because you tried to make a report of discrimination to your employer (e.g. boss, human resources, manager, CEO). This includes if you make a report about discrimination against yourself or other employees.
A whistleblower is someone who reports conduct, or anything done by their employer that they believe is against the law. They also aren’t allowed to demote you, take away hours or pay, write you up, or take any negative action against you because you made a report.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Wrongfully Terminated?
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, there are five steps you can immediately take:
- Apply for unemployment: For your more immediate needs, you can apply for unemployment benefits and contact COBRA for the continuation of your health insurance benefits.
- Do not sign a severance agreement: When you are presented with a “separation agreement” or “severance agreement,” they usually include the promise of some amount of money, in exchange for you giving up your ability to make any legal claims related to the employment. You should not sign an agreement like this until you have an employment lawyer review your situation.
- Write everything down: Next, you should write down everything that happened to you related to your employment and termination. Important information to include are dates, who terminated you, what they said was the reason for your termination, and who else was present. Also include if you think the reason that they gave you for termination was accurate, and if not what you think the real reason was. You can also note what other employees might have useful information about your situation.
- Request a personnel file: Send an email to your employer asking for your personnel file. This information can be helpful for the attorneys in reviewing your case and seeing what your employer might say in their defense. We have a sample file request email template on our website.
- Request a truthful reason for your termination: In Minnesota, you have 15 days to request the reason that you were fired from your employer. Make the request in writing, so that you have a record of it. This will lock your employer into their story about why you were terminated and could help your lawyer prove that their reason was false.