The circumstances that cause a wrongful termination lawsuit to arise will vary based on the rules that have been established in that jurisdiction. Most employment is at will, which means that either the employer or the employee has the general right to end the employment arrangement for any reason at any time. However, some special circumstances require a contractual employment relationship and in these situations, if either party does not follow the terms laid out in the contract, there may be grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Last, many jurisdictions have enacted statutes that dictate rules that govern when employers may fire their employees and if the employer breaks this rule, they may be liable for wrongful termination.
At will employment is an employment relationship whereby either the employer or the employee may terminate the relationship for any reason at any time. This is the arrangement under which the majority of jobs in the developed world operate, which means that in most cases there is no basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit. However, there are some external circumstances that may lead to a valid claim for wrongful termination.
The first and most obvious circumstance that may set up a wrongful termination lawsuit is the existence of a contractual employment agreement. Typically, when a person is contractually employed, there is a clause that states he or she may only be terminated “for cause.” What amounts to cause for firing is usually described within the contract or in some other document that may be incorporated by reference. In the event that the employer terminates the employee for a reason that does not amount to cause under the employment agreement, the employee may bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.
There are times where there is an implied contract between the employer and his or her employee, even if there is no express agreement signed at the beginning of the employment. For example, if the employer issues an employee handbook that he or she requires the employee read and sign, the conditions within that handbook may be construed as a contract. If the handbook implies that the employee will not be fired but for certain violations, he or she may file a wrongful termination lawsuit if the employer breaks that implied promise.
Most jurisdictions have enacted laws preventing employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or age. If, in a jurisdiction where such a law has been enacted, an employer fires his or her employee for seemingly no other reason than his or her race, then it may violate the statute. As a result, the employee may bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.