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Losing your job can feel like the end of the world when it first happens. Especially if your termination was sudden and unexpected, you may feel as though a part of your identity has suddenly disappeared.

When you lose your job, it is natural to feel angry and frustrated. Most of the time, those emotions will fade as you bounce back and move to a new job. However, if your employer terminated you illegally, the repercussions and emotional consequences may last longer.

Thankfully, you will also potentially have the opportunity to hold your former employer accountable for violating your rights through a wrongful termination.

Just because West Virginia is an at-will state doesn’t mean employers can abuse workers

West Virginia is an at-will employment state. That means that both the employer and the employee have the right to sever the work relationship at any time. However, there are still certain situations in which it is illegal for your employer to terminate you. You still have certain rights, including the right to be free from discrimination and retaliation by your employer.

How discrimination can lead to a wrongful termination

People with certain protected characteristics should not have those characteristics considered when it comes to their ongoing employment, their rate of compensation and other factors regarding their job, like a pending promotion. Protected characteristics that employers cannot consider when making decisions about hiring, firing, promoting or how they pay their workers include:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Age for those over 40
  • Gender

If you were the only member of a protected group at your place of employment or if multiple others with the same characteristics have also been fired under questionable circumstances, it may be an indication that discrimination played a role in your termination, making it a wrongful termination.

Retaliation can occur over a number of legal actions

As an employee, you have the right to a workplace that is safe and free from harassment. Additionally, you have a moral obligation to report it to your employer or to government agencies if the company intentionally violates the law.

Whether you were a whistleblower who reported misconduct or you had to report a co-worker or supervisor for harassment or other inappropriate behaviors, the company cannot legally punish you for doing so. Firing someone, possibly after documenting several questionable offenses in order to justify doing so, can be a form of retaliation if it happens after someone reports wrongdoing or illegal activities.

Those who believe they suffered a wrongful termination can, theoretically, take legal action to either regain their job or seek financial compensation from the company that violated their rights.