What Does Wrongful Termination Actually Mean?
In Louisiana, wrongful termination is not a meaningful legal term. We have no civil law claim for wrongful termination. What is important in Louisiana is whether or not the termination is illegal. So, people, I think, get confused because the phrase “wrongful termination” is out there and it gets used any time a termination is unfair or wrong. People hear the phrase “wrongful termination” and they think there is some legal protection whenever they get fired for an unfair or untrue reason. And unfortunately, that’s not the case. For there to be a legal protection from termination of employment, the termination needs to be illegal, not just wrong.
It is important to understand that distinction. A lot of times, when people feel that they have been wrongfully or unfairly terminated, a closer look at the details can show that the termination was illegal because it was made for a reason or under circumstances that are prohibited by a Federal or State law. But in many cases, a termination that is unfair, based on mistaken facts or shoddy investigation, or unsupported by a business justification is not illegal. It is important to understand that distinction, especially if you are dealing with a difficult employment situation. Just because there is no good reason to fire you doesn’t mean you’re going to have any legal right to contest that termination. Employers and employees need to focus more on whether there is evidence of illegal motivation in thinking about legal challenges to termination of employment.
Under What Circumstances Can Someone Bring A Discrimination Lawsuit Against Their Employer?
The technical answer is anybody can bring a claim, but the question is, is the claim going to be successful? To have a successful claim for discrimination, there are a lot of boxes that have to be checked. First, you have to make sure that you are an employee, not an independent contractor. You must make sure that the employer has at least the minimum number of employees to be covered by either Title VII or the applicable state anti-discrimination law. You need to typically have proof that the employer took a negative employment action against you because of a protected characteristic. That requires more than just “I fit this characteristic and they took a negative action.” The employee must be able to prove the causal connection between the two, and that’s usually the difficult part.
There are time limits for bringing claims of discrimination against former or current employers and there are procedural steps that you must take before you can go to court. All of these things are important to understand when you start to face a situation like this.
What Damages Can I Win In A Discrimination Lawsuit?
For a discrimination claim under Title VII which is the federal anti-discrimination law, the most important element of damages a successful plaintiff is entitled to receive is lost wages and benefits. This is the value of wages and benefits the employee would have earned had the employee maintained employment with the defendant, less the amount that the employee did earn from other work since termination of employment. Many people don’t understand that if they are terminated, even illegally, they have a duty to mitigate their damages. This means they have to make reasonable efforts to go out and find a replacement job to make up that lost paycheck. If the employee does not fulfill the duty to mitigate, the court can reduce the damages for lost wages and benefits.
In many cases, a successful plaintiff employee is entitled to reinstatement – being placed back into the job. This raises an issue of whether reinstatement is feasible under the circumstances, and courts often award front pay – which is a projection of future lost wages and benefits – instead of reinstatement. In addition to the lost wages and benefits, a successful plaintiff is also entitled to damages for mental anguish and emotional distress. These damages are capped under Title VII. The size of the caps depends on the number of employees employed by the employer. In some cases, the employer can be liable for punitive damages. Finally, prevailing plaintiffs are also entitled to attorney’s fees, interest, and costs of court.
If I Was Given A Severance package Upon Being Fired Can I Still Bring A Claim Against My Employer?
It depends. When people are fired from their job and given a severance, they are usually handed a legal document and asked to sign it in exchange for the severance benefits. In that document, which employees should read very carefully before signing, the employee typically waives all potential legal claims against the employer. In that kind of situation, where the employee has signed a severance document waiving claims and received severance benefits, it may be too late to undo the severance agreement and bring a claim in court. Sometimes, the document includes additional legal promises from the employee – such as agreements not to compete with the employer or not to solicit customers. This is why it is crucial for employees to read and understand the document and to consider the alternatives before accepting a severance package. Even where there is a valid waiver, the courts have held that an employee still has the right to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). However, while the EEOC can still investigate and take enforcement action, the employee will not be able to obtain any compensation as a result of the charge
There are also some situations where the employer simply pays the employee for a few weeks or months following termination without requiring the employee to make a waiver of claims. Sometimes this is called “severance pay.” In these situations, it is possible for the employee to bring a claim against the employer. The waiver of claims can only be made by agreement of the employee.
For employers, offering a severance package can be a smart way to avoid the drama and expense of litigation when terminating an employee. But it is important to have the right severance document and a good plan for communicating the offer to the employee.
If you have questions about a Wrongful Termination In Louisiana, you need the right information to make smart choices. Find out how Alan Kansas can help by calling (504) 300-0071 today.
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