Wrongful Termination in Minneapolis
Minnesota is an “at-will” employment state and Minneapolis is an “at will” employment city. That means that your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all – even a stupid, incorrect, unfair, or unethical reason – provided that it’s not an illegal reason.
Employers can – and often do – make mistakes or bad business decisions when they terminate employees. Even if a Minneapolis employer’s actions are unfair, unethical, or bad business, the employer hasn’t broken the law unless they make an employment decision such as termination for an illegal reason.
Sometimes, Minneapolis employment lawyers refer to these claims as “wrongful termination” claims. We mainly use “wrongful termination” as shorthand for clients – most of the illegal reasons for termination that form the basis for a lawsuit are discrimination, retaliation, or whistleblowing.
Illegal Reasons for Terminating a Minneapolis Employee
There are several illegal reasons for termination that could form the basis for a wrongful termination claim for a Minneapolis employee:
- The first illegal reason for termination is discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, disability, or sexual orientation. Minnesota state law (through the Minnesota Human Rights Act), federal law (through Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act), and Minneapolis City Ordinance (Title 7) prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of inherent and arbitrary criteria like race, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
- The second unlawful and wrongful reason for termination is retaliation or reprisalby an employer against an employee for making a complaint or report of discrimination. The Minnesota Human Rights Act, Title VII, and the Minneapolis City Ordinance (Title 7) all prevent employers from retaliating against employees for making a report of unlawful discrimination – either against themselves or other employees.
- The third illegal reason for termination is retaliation for whistleblowing. Both federal law and state law protect whistleblower employees from suffering retaliation at their jobs for reporting conduct that they believe to be unlawful. Minneapolis employees of course are protected by these laws, even though Minneapolis doesn’t have a separate law of its own.
- The federal government allows certain employees up to 90 days in a calendar year for medical leave for themselves or to care for family members through the Family and Medical Leave Act. An illegal reason for termination is if an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising his or her FMLA rights. Minneapolis employees are entitled to FMLA leave pursuant to federal law.
- Minnesota protects its injured employees by preventing employers from retaliating against employees who get injured on the job and seek workers compensation benefits. Workers compensation retaliation is illegal. It is illegal for employers to terminate employees just because the employee was injured and sought workers compensation. Minneapolis employees are entitled to workers compensation benefits when injured on the job, and state law protects them from retaliation.
- Both the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act protect Minneapolis employees from termination or firing in retaliation for questioning, make a complaint regarding, or opposing unlawful pay practices, including an employer not paying proper overtime or requiring off-the-clock work. If you think you were terminated because you questioned your employer’s pay practices, you may have a wrongful termination claim.
The “At Will” Employment Rule Doesn’t Apply When Minneapolis Employees Have an Employment Contract.
The major exception to the at-will employment rule discussed above is if you have an employment contract with your Minneapolis employer. Most people don’t, so the at-will doctrine (and the illegal reasons for termination stated above) apply to most employees in Minneapolis.
But if you have an employment contract, the terms of your contract may provide additional protections to you in addition to those stated above. The specific protections vary from contract to contract, so we’d need to see it first, but generally speaking: many employment contracts set out specific reasons for which employment may be terminated “with cause” or “without cause.” If your employer did not terminate you for one of those reasons – following the procedures specified – you may have a wrongful termination claim based on your employment contract.
Your employer probably isn’t going to admit that it terminated you for an illegal, discriminatory reason. Usually, when employers discriminate on the basis of age, race, disability, gender, or sexual orientation, the employer will make up and offer a different, non-discriminatory reason for termination. For example, the employer might claim that it terminated you for poor performance. In order to win on a wrongful termination or discrimination claim, Minneapolis employment lawyers must prove that the reason offered by the employer is a pretextual reason that is just being said so that the employer can avoid having to say the actual, illegal reason for termination.
We’ve got a couple ways that to prove pretext on behalf of Minneapolis employees. First, you can demonstrate that the reason given by the employer is just factually wrong. So, for example, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but actually gave you high performance reviews for a number of years and has no written records of ever giving you discipline or counseling, then we’ve created a fact question for a jury regarding whether the reason given by the employer is the real reason for termination, or just a pretextual reason designed to mask unlawful discrimination.
Second, employment attorneys in Minneapolis can prove that the reason given by the employer isn’t the real reason for termination because it wasn’t equally applied to similarly situated employees. So, if the employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but the your peers actually had equal or worse performance reviews than you – or documented performance problems that you didn’t have – than we’ve created a fact issue regarding whether the employer’s stated reason for termination is the actual reason, or just a pretextual reason designed to mask unlawful discrimination.
First of all, if you’re searching for answers right now after losing your job, we’re very sorry that you’re in this position. We know how tough it is to lose your job, especially when you’ve got family and other financial obligations. It’s especially frustrating when the termination is wrongful, illegal, and unfair.
Second, make sure that take advantage of state benefits designed to help people going through tough times. Apply for unemployment benefits – here’s a link. And, contact COBRA to make sure you and your family are covered for health insurance.
Third, write everything down that happened to you. Write down the date that you were terminated, who terminated you, what they precisely said was the reason for your termination, and who else was present. Write down whether you think the reason your employer gave you was accurate or not, and why. Write down the names of employees that you think may have useful information. Write down the types of documents or emails that you think may have good information about your case. Write down everything – the reason for this is that your memory will probably fade over time and you want to document things while they’re fresh in your mind. If you pursue a lawsuit, your trial likely won’t be for at least 12 to 18 months, so you want to have something that you can refer to – write everything down.
Fourth, immediately send a letter or email request to your employer requesting your personnel file and the reason for your termination. Under Minnesota law, your employer needs to provide it to you. If your employer hasn’t paid you all of your wages or given you your last paycheck, make sure to request those wages in writing also (by letter or email).
Fifth, call us to talk about your case.
Contact Our Minneapolis Employment and Wrongful Termination Lawyers.
You must act quickly when it comes to employment claims. If you wait, there may be strict statutes of limitation that will bar you from filing any claim at all against your employer. Call Madia Law today to discuss your case.
First, contact our office and tell us about your situation. You’ll talk with our staff for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.
There’s some information that we’ll need when you call. We will want to know who you worked for, what kind of work you did, for how long worked there, how much you earned, if/when you were terminated, the reason given by your employer for any discipline and termination, and why do you think your employer did something unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed more quickly.
We will get back to you shortly – usually within a few hours. If your potential case is a little outside of our wheelhouse, we may refer you to attorneys, agencies, or organizations that we think might be better suited to handle your situation. Our goal is to ensure you get the best and most appropriate help possible for your particular situation. If that’s not us, we’ll try to tell you immediately and point you in the right direction.
If we think that we might be able help you, we’ll set an appointment for you to talk with one of our employment lawyers. We’ll discuss your case, and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. If we then mutually agree that Madia Law will represent you, we will talk about the process of moving forward with your case.
When you talk with our employment lawyers, please be sure to have all relevant documents that you have in your possession. For example, that could include: pay-stubs, personnel files, employment handbooks/policies, letters from your employer (including your termination letter), any text messages or emails that you think are important, and any other documents that you think might be helpful.