Unfortunately, in this economy, getting fired/laid off/let go/etc. is happening at an alarming rate. Maybe you thought you were doing pretty good work, or maybe you knew you it was coming.
Regardless, most people do not think they deserved being fired and ask me what their legal options are regarding wrongful termination. Below, we’ll discuss this more in-depth.
“We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday; studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.” —Office Space
Texas Employment Law
Texas subscribes to the “at-will-employment” doctrine.
Essentially, this means that when you accept employment at a job, unless you have entered into a contract for different terms, you are guaranteed employment until you quit or you get fired, whichever occurs first.
I bet you’re confused. This doctrine gives you the freedom to quit for any reason you want, no matter how silly or outrageous. Actually, you can even quit for no reason at all. However, the other side of this freedom coin gives your employer the right to fire you for any reason, or even no reason at all. Well, almost any reason, there are some limitations.
Reasons You Can’t Be Fired For
Obviously, our society is better served when we disallow businesses from engaging in discriminatory practices. For that reason, an employer can’t fire you (or take any adverse employment action against you) based on your race, creed, religion, age, national origin, disability, possibly sexual preference, or other protected classification.
In addition, there are some Public-Policy Exceptions that employers cannot fire/act against you. Your employer cannot fire you because you’ve been called for Jury Duty, because you filed a Worker’s Compensation Claim, for refusing to break the law for your employer, being a whistle-blower, or filing a discrimination claim.
How to Protect Yourself from Employment-at-Will
If you and your employer enter into an employment contract, then the conditions of your job will be governed by your agreement. Most standard employment contracts outline that you can be terminated “for cause,” which means that they need a reason to fire you.
However, if you are contemplating bringing a wrongful employment lawsuit against a former employer, remember that the burden will be on you to prove that you and your employer entered into such a contract and the terms of the agreement.
Most employers won’t agree to such a contract because they like the freedom of firing people at will. But remember, even though you don’t have the luxury of an employment contract, be thankful that you even have a job right now in these difficult times.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Business Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479