Termination is the most common subject of complaint made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to new EEOC statistics.
Many of those complainants were let go for legitimate (or at least legally defensible) reasons. But sometimes the stated reason for termination is a mask for discrimination or other nefarious and illegal motivations. In such cases, employees may have grounds to sue for wrongful termination.
3 stated reasons for termination that may be a ruse
The Huffington Post analyzed stats recently released by the EEOC regarding 2014 employment actions. The report noted that unfair or unlawful firing is the top reason people contact the EEOC. Statistics also showed that complaints of employer retaliation had risen sharply.
Employers are savvy enough not to fire people for a blatantly illegal reason such as race, religion, age or disability. Instead the official reason will be employee conduct or business reasons. Here are three common excuses for termination that may be a cover for non-legitimate reasons:
1. Poor work performance
Employers might cite substandard work performance as the reason for termination. While this is a legitimate reason in many circumstances, there should have been prior notice that the worker’s performance was inferior. The performance standard of performance applied to you should also be consistent with colleagues who do comparable work.
A telltale sign that performance is a trumped-up excuse is a history of promotions or positive reviews that abruptly turn negative. Often the bad reviews occur after taking workers’ comp or pregnancy leave or after “making waves” by reporting harassment or fraud.
2. Need to cut staff
Your employer might state that your termination is due to budget issues. If business has slowed, the employer may have to let go of excess personnel. As is the case with any other employment termination, however, there must be some consistency in the reasoning given.
If the employer cites financial reasons for laying you off, the question is whether any of your colleagues were also let go – and whether there is a pattern in who is let go. Layoffs become a convenient cover for retaliatory discharge, age discrimination, racial or ethnic discrimination, and other unlawful actions. Another telltale sign is when the company fills your position with someone new shortly after a staff cutting termination.
3. Violation of standards
Sometimes employees are terminated for alleged violations of company standards. This may range from accusations of illegal conduct to supposed deviations from protocol, such as tardiness or insubordination. Regardless of the severity of the violation, if the charge is inaccurate you may have been terminated under false pretenses.
What is the evidence of the offense(s) in question? Are other employees held to a different standard? Was there any warning or discussion with a supervisor before termination? Did the alleged violations coincide with the employee filing claims or complaints?
There may be legal remedies
Losing your job is stressful — losing your source of income, disrupting your career, re-entering the job market. Florida is an employment-at-will state, which basically means employers do not need a strong reason to fire you. However, under state and federal laws, they cannot fire you for illegal reasons such as discrimination or in retaliation for whistleblowing or exercising protected employment rights.
If you think you were unjustly fired, contact an employment law attorney about a possible lawsuit for wrongful termination. If you win such a case, you could be reinstated and/or receive monetary compensation.