As an employee, you are likely dependent on the wages you earn to support yourself and others in your family. If you lose your job unexpectedly, your termination can put you in a position of serious financial hardship. Additionally, getting fired from your job can impact future employment prospects, negatively affecting the overall trajectory of your career and your earning potential.

Some people lose their jobs for reasonable causes, such as mass layoffs or a history of insubordination, poor performance or tardiness. Other people lose their jobs for reasons that they shouldn’t, including reporting sexual harassment, refusing to do something illegal when requested by their employer or even falling victim to constructive discharge, the legal term for what happens when someone quits because their employer creates such a hostile work environment that they simply can’t stay there anymore.

Wrongful termination could also involve violations of company or public policy, or breach of contract, including the refusal to provide contractually required severance. If you understand what constitutes wrongful termination, you will have a better idea of whether you can take legal action against your employer for the recent loss of your job.

Whistleblowers and harassment victims have certain rights

When you report harassment or discrimination to your employer, they should investigate and take reasonable action. If instead, they choose to terminate you, they have engaged in a practice known as retaliation, which violates federal law. The same is true for those who get fired because they report a workplace injury or attempt to file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits.

Additionally, if you report illegal activity either to your employer or a government regulatory agency, your job has certain protections under the law. Your actions qualify you as a whistleblower, which means that your employer cannot terminate you just for the report you made.

Unfortunately, such terminations do still happen. Sometimes, companies will try to make wrongful terminations seem legitimate. An example could be a restructuring of the business that is a thin veil for getting rid of older employees and replacing them with younger, cheaper staff. Wrongful termination claims can easily turn into complex legal cases, which means you may need help in determining whether you have grounds to bring a claim against your former employer.