Wrongful termination often occurs when a worker is injured on the job and pursues a claim for benefits under a state workers’ compensation program, the Longshore Harbor workers’ Compensation Act, or the Jones Act, he is protected from wrongful termination or discharge. Most states have statutes prohibiting retaliation, including termination, for filing a state workers’ compensation claim. General maritime law recognizes a cause of action for termination in response to retaliation for filing a personal injury claim. Additionally, the courts have recognized that wrongful termination claims may be pursued for refusal to rehire an employee for future voyages who has filed a claim for personal injuries after that employee has sufficiently recovered and is capable of returning to work.
Damages in a wrongful termination claim includes: reinstatement of employment and monetary compensation for lost wages, value of lost benefits and, in certain circumstances, punitive damages and damages for emotional distress caused by the employer’s acts.
Employment at-will is a term that is central to wrongful termination law. It means that the employment relationship is fully voluntary on the part of parties, the employer and the employee. Under this doctrine, absent an employment contract or statutory prohibition, the employee may leave his employment for any reason and the employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time, whether with or without cause. Generally, however, an employer may not terminate the employment relationship as retaliation against the employee for filing an injury claim.
The employment at-will doctrine is important to the employer-employee relationship but it does not totally insulate and employer from wrongful termination claims. There are protections written into the federal statutes that prohibit the termination of employees based on factors that violate federal provisions such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination Act of 1967, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Family Medical Leave Act, and others. Claims under Title VII, resulting from termination or discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion or sex are often the easiest wrongful termination cases to pursue, because of clear guidelines.
Employers have been known to terminate an employee after a job injury for more than one reason. However, if one of the reasons is based on retaliation or discrimination, the employer can be found liable for damages. Damages in wrongful termination cases can be substantial.
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Employees should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a job-related injury to avoid being terminated by their employer. Most employees do not want to lose their job and it is just inviting trouble to tempt an employer to fire you after your value as a worker has been diminished by an injury. It is best for you and for your employer that you remain employed and the best way for that to happen is for your employer to realize that they cannot expect you to go away quietly if they fire you. Do the right thing for yourself and your family. Discuss your options with the Ogletree Abbott Law Firm. Call us at 1-800-JonesAct. It easy to talk with us and we are very familiar with situations like yours. You can talk to us privately because no one will know that you called and we will protect your confidentiality. At a minimum, find out what to expect and be prepared for anything if you have been wrongfully terminated.