Have you ever witnessed management prepare to fire someone within your company? Were you ever laid off without notice under questionable circumstances? Unfortunately, many professionals have experienced a situation where they were let go from their position. Employment law involves all facets of relationships and contracts between organizations and their employees. To learn more about employment law and employee rights when fired, we performed extensive research.  This research provided critical insight regarding a company’s legal obligations and what you are able to do if you think you are about to be fired.  Please reach out to an employment law attorney in your area, for urgent concerns and legal matters.

What Is Employment Law?

Employment law is the practice of handling all matters related to the employee and employer relationship. It covers negotiation and review of employment contracts, guidance, and counseling of employment issues, restrictive covenant and non-compete issues, and ultimately review and file litigation of possible legal claims, such as breach of contract or discrimination based on age, race, sex, religion, national origin, color, and disabilities. Additionally, employees often are misclassified as exempt from overtime wages or just outright not paid proper overtime they are owed. Federal laws are in place, allowing employees to recover wages owed to them.

What Should Professionals Do If They Believe They Might Be Fired?

Document, document, document. Executives and professionals who have taken detailed notes and kept relevant emails, text messages, and other documentation inevitably fare better in protecting their rights if termination occurs. It is essential to save any text messages or emails that may show something like discrimination while you still can access those documents or media assets. After a layoff occurs, you are not going to be able to access company phones or emails, and you may have forgotten dates or details of conversations.

If you believe you are at risk of being laid off, it never hurts to seek assistance and guidance from experienced employment attorneys. Often, an employee can fend off a wrongful termination if they can get ahead of it. At times, the bad actor is just a supervisor or manager, and upper management might not know about the unlawful employment problems you are facing. However, if termination occurs, a detailed and document-supported case will always be better than a “he said, she said” case. 

What Legal Rights Does an Employee Have If They Are Fired from Their Full-time Employer?

An employee’s rights are going to vary from state to state. Many states are at-will employment states, meaning that an employer can terminate an employee at any time without cause, or an employee can resign anytime without cause. However, an employer cannot take adverse action or terminate an employee because of their race, sex, national origin, color, religion, age, or disability or retaliate for raising complaints about these issues, among other protections. Employees cannot be terminated for raising complaints about unpaid overtime or discussing their employment with current workers.

How Should the Laid-off Employee Communicate or Act with Former Team Members Still Employed by Their Previous Company?

It is okay for laid-off employees to communicate or talk with former co-workers. However, a terminated employee shouldn’t discuss their circumstances or case leading to their situation with former team members without the advice of counsel. Additionally, even the closest former co-workers often get concerned with self-preservation and may provide information you shared in confidence with the employer’s attorneys. On the other hand, with the guidance of counsel, former co-workers may be willing to offer helpful statements in support of your case.

What General Advice Should Be given to Executives and Professionals Regarding Employment Law?

The majority of employees will never encounter legal issues during their careers. Employees who focus on providing a solid work product will be assets to their employer and generally will have long and successful careers. It is essential for employees to not give or create a reason for employers to start weighing termination or disciplinary actions. If the employer has a non-discriminatory, legitimate reason to discipline or terminate an employee, it will be challenging for that employee to pursue a case.

However, if an employee believes they are not being paid properly, generally just have concerns about something happening in the workplace, or truly think they are receiving discrimination due to a protected factor or attribute, they should seek the guidance of an experienced attorney.

Many facets of employment law will vary depending on the state you work in. Generally, it’s logical to document everything you are able to while you still are employed. Collect copies of notes, emails, and phone records for yourself and the future. Consider booking an appointment with an employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss any actions you’ve witnessed that might be relevant to your situation or suspicions. What could you do now to protect yourself if you think adverse action is taking place?


Need to transition to a new position and career? Fly High Coaching is always here to help. We offer expert professional resume services and career coaching to help executives and professionals secure the job of their dreams. Contact us today to get started on your new career path or check out our FREE Kick Start Your Success course for more ways to improve your career situation.

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Porschia Parker-Griffin

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Professional Coach, Business Consultant, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. When she is not coaching, Porschia enjoys traveling, cooking, and working with animals.
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