A large number of employees today find themselves working “At-Will” in an “At-Will” protected state. Employees in both Arizona and Texas are included in that number.

And, when an employee is terminated, they do not understand the law and they think they can just file suit against an employer because they were terminated. Unfortunately, this simply is not true. In fact, in most cases, the only way that an employee can sue an employer for terminating them during an “At-Will” relationship, in any state, is if the employer has more than 15 employees and violates a state or federal law.

And, even if the employer may have violated a law, in order for the employee to prove this, the employee would still have to lodge a complaint, usually with the EEOC, and then proceed to sue the employer through a lengthy litigation process. And, in most cases the attorney will not bear the cost of legal fees. The employee will have to pay for the litigation and the attorney’s time, unless they can find an attorney who will take the case on a contingency fee agreement, which is becoming more and more difficult to find, based on the cost of litigation.

What Is “At-Will”?

Many employees do not fully understand what the term “At-Will” implies from a legal standpoint.

In its simplest definition, “At-Will” employment means that either the employee or the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for no reason or for reasons and with or without cause. This means that not only can an employer let an employee go or terminate them without grounds, but the employee can also leave the company on a moment’s notice without any warning or notice to the employer. In many ways, this works and protects both parties as it simply allows either side to sever an employee-employer relationship without going through the litigation process.

That being said, not all terminations are legal, even if the state or employment is “At-Will.” Termination which violates federal and/or state laws such as labor laws including Title VII, disability or family protected laws, retaliation, forms of harassment or which violate written employment agreements all fall under conditions (causes of action) that can result in or give an employee permission to file suit for wrongful termination, so long as underlying conditions are met.

Some Basis for Filing a Wrongful Termination Suit

If you believe that you have been terminated unjustly for any of the following occurrences, you can consider speaking with a reputable employment attorney or litigation attorney to further assist you and advise you as to whether or not filing suit against your employer will be in your best interest or can be sustained in court:

  • Termination which occurs while the employee is under an Employment Agreement (NOTE: Our firm will handle this type of case.)
  • Breach of the Employment Agreement by the Employer, while the Employee is working under an Employment Agreement (NOTE: Our firm will handle this type of case.)
  • Termination following certain types of harassment complaints that you made (NOTE: Our firm will handle this type of case.)
  • Termination following a complaint to state or federal agencies for corporate violations or violating whistleblower laws
  • Termination following a leave of absence for extended illness covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Termination following refusal to participate in any unsafe act
  • Termination following your participation in union activities
  • Termination following discrimination under Title VII
  • Termination following discrimination under the Disability Act

NOTE: Not all employers can be sued under the above stated causes of action due to the number of employees or the size of the business.

Reasons Why You Might Not Want to File Suit

While the above stated violations may be valid reasons to file suit, be aware that many cases are not prudent to file. Further, a lawsuit is not advisable to be filed if your primary reason to file suit is strictly to get even with your former employer, for in many cases it would be better if you moved on and looked for new employment because you may very well be liable for your ex-employer’s legal fees. In addition to this, make sure that you can afford to pay the costly legal fees that will be required to be paid monthly to the attorney representing you, as these fees will be required to be paid over the course of the litigation which can be an extended period of time (unless your case was taken on a contingency basis) because if you do not have financial stability to pay for your legal fees or for the things that need to be done during the litigation process, you may not be able to win your case. Lastly, don’t forget the emotional toll that any legal action will take on you, your loved ones and everyone involved. Sometimes, the reward is not always worth the turmoil.

Please keep in mind that if you have been terminated without cause, you can still — and should — file for unemployment benefits, and if you are eligible, provide the unemployment agency with the information proving the employer terminated you without cause and you should be able to obtain unemployment benefits.

If you have any questions regarding a recent employment agreement termination, please contact Goldstein & Scopellite, PC. Our team of experienced business lawyers and litigation attorneys in Dallas, Texas and Tucson, Ariz., is well versed in all manners of business law and we are available to assist you with your litigation case.

Goldstein & Scopellite, PC, is located in Dallas, Texas and was established in 2002. For more information, see our local listing in D Magazine.

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