An employment termination is considered wrongful if an employer has fired or laid off an employee for illegal reasons. Although employment relationships in most states, including Maine, are "at-will," meaning that either the employer or the employee may end the relationship at any time with or without reason, federal law does not allow employers to act in a discriminatory manner. According to FindLaw.com, some reasons for employment termination that are considered illegal include the following:
Federal law makes it illegal to terminate or discriminate against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, and age. It is also illegal for employers to consider these characteristics with regard to promotions, job assignments, and wages.
Under Maine law, an at-will employee may be terminated for any reason that is not specifically prohibited by federal law. In most instances, an employee is considered to be working at-will unless he or she is covered by either a collective bargaining agreement or a contract that limits termination.
Some damages available to wrongfully terminated employees may include back pay, promotion, reinstatement, front pay, compensatory damages, required reasonable accommodations, injunctive relief, punitive damages, and reimbursement of attorneys' fees. Some states may require that the employer pay punitive, or punishing, damages to the employee because of an unlawful termination.
An employer is not required to give severance pay to a terminated employee unless an employment contract requires it or the employer's policy manual provides for it. However, an employee may be able to negotiate some type of severance pay in exchange for promising not to bring legal action against the employer for the termination. An employment attorney will be able to advise a terminated employee as to whether a severance package or a wrongful termination lawsuit is an option in his or her particular situation.
If you are fired, the following tips may help you to improve your position:
If you are entitled to a severance package, negotiate with your employer to get the best deal possible:
For a full explanation of wrongful termination laws, go to Justia.com . Additional legal assistance can be gained by watching this Wrongful Termination of Employment video, which can be found on Free Legal Aid.