You lost your job, but believe your employer illegally fired you. How hard is it to prove a wrongful termination case — and which claims usually win? Remember, there’s a big difference between what most people agree seems “unfair” vs. breaking the law. Below, we’ll list some examples of what it takes to win a wrongful termination case in court against your employer.
Proving Your Wrongful Termination Case for Discrimination
Know someone who lost her job while pregnant or on maternity leave? That’s illegal. However, it’s harder to prove in at-will employment states. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 says employers must treat pregnancy like a temporary disability. In order to win a wrongful termination case like this, you must also meet these requirements:
- Your employer must have 15 or more employees. Small companies may get away with firing pregnant women or eliminating their jobs specifically because of this rule.
- Confirm your employer’s coverage before filing your complaint. For example: For a valid wrongful termination case based on FMLA leave, your employer must have at least 50 employees working within 75 miles. In addition, you must work there at least 12 months before taking FMLA leave.
- File a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days. Many people fail to do this first. When the EEOC successfully processes your charge, you’ll receive a right to sue letter. Once you have it, find a lawyer to file your wrongful termination claim.
How to Prove Your Wrongful Termination Case For Reporting Workplace Safety Violations
What happens when you report safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency? Even if you stay anonymous, it’s illegal for your employer to fire you. Before you can file a valid wrongful termination claim, follow these steps:
- File a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of your termination. (For all deadlines, visit whistleblower.gov.)
- You must also file an EEOC administrative complaint within 45 days. The EEOC then investigates your employer. You should then receive a right to sue letter within 180 days.
- In addition, you must show good evidence your wrongful termination case resulted directly from legally protected activities. Let’s say OSHA calls about your workplace safety complaint, then a coworker tells your boss. You only have positive performance reviews. Plus, you got a raise three months ago. This likely helps prove your case.
- Contact a qualified employment attorney as soon as possible. Every state has its own wrongful termination laws and rules. Consulting a lawyer is free!
Are These Claims Hard to Win? How Much Money Could You Get?
Is it worth your time and effort? Below are some retaliation claim statistics from EEOC investigations completed in FY2019:
- 67% of investigated claims found no reasonable cause for employee termination.
- $205.2 million awarded to people who filed EEOC charges alleging retaliation-based discrimination (does not include lawsuit settlement awards).
- Employees who filed lawsuits against their employers won another $39.1 million above and beyond that $205.2 million!
Now that you know the numbers are on your side, you can file your claim with confidence. Not sure how to find the right lawyer to help you? We can match you with a qualified employment attorney in your area today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation here.
Related: How to Prepare for Your Consultation
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.