The Essential Guide: Wrongful Termination Due to COVID

Fired business man reads the notice of job termination

The Essential Guide: Wrongful Termination Due to COVID

Are you dealing with wrongful termination? If so, you can take your employer to civil court. Employers can use the pandemic to fire you for unjust reasons.

Federal and state laws may be on your side. Also, employees can invoke laws protecting them against employer retaliation.

Before filing, you must determine if you have a strong case. The problem is that the COVID-19 pandemic allows employers to terminate employees abruptly. To find out if you have a potential claim, hire a wrongful termination lawyer.

This article will help you know your rights as an employee during the pandemic. Let’s explore.

Termination Differences

To know if you have a case, you must know the difference between wrongful termination and unlawful termination. The differences break down as follows:

Unlawful Termination

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee based on such factors as race, sex, sexual orientation, age, or religious affiliation. The economic strain of the pandemic has resulted in unlawful terminations done under the guise of financial hardship.

Wrongful Termination

This form of termination occurs when an employer fires an employee due to factors not related to unlawful termination. They’re often terminated for subjective reasons, such as filing a complaint against an employee or complaining about an unfair performance review.

Wrongful Termination Examples

You still have legal recourse under the law when it comes to wrongful termination. In most of the United States, the workforce operates under at-will laws.

This means that employers and employees can sever a work agreement at any time and without prior notice. That said, employers believe that they can fire an employee for any reason, which isn’t true.

ADA Guidelines

The pandemic has caused many employers to cut employees loose if they test positive for covid. They cannot do this under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations if you contracted covid. For instance, allowing you to work from home is a reasonable accommodation. If an employer fires you for having covid and provides no reasonable accommodation, they have violated the ADA.

Moreover, some employers have used the pandemic as an excuse to fire disabled employees who require reasonable accommodations. Again, they cannot do this under the ADA.

Moreover, an employer may have fired an employee for reporting them to state or federal authorities. Perhaps an employee reported the employer for not following CDC guidelines.

Under state and federal laws, employees can invoke whistleblower protections to safeguard them from retaliatory firings.

The National Labor Relations Act is another example of protecting workers who report violations.

OSHA Guidelines 

Additionally, OSHA guidelines stipulate that employers must eliminate hazards that endanger staff members. Also, employers cannot fire employees for reporting violations. Under OSHA, you also have the right to refuse to work if you believe working conditions pose a direct threat to your health.

The problem is that the law is unclear when it comes to cases involving covid. For example, the law may permit termination if you refuse to return to work after officials lifted shutdown orders.

Mass Layoff Laws

Under federal and state laws, employers must give legitimate reasons for letting employees go. Plus, these laws were in place before the pandemic. For example, the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) applies in the following circumstances:

  • The employer must have at least 100 full-time employees employed for a minimum of six of the past 12 months before the pandemic occurred.
  • The employee remained employed for at least six months before they receive the lay-off notice.
  • The mass lay-offs of 50 or more individuals within 30 days.

Overall, there are different variations of WARN, depending on state laws. Regardless, an employer must provide a reasonable amount of time before the lay-off occurs.

Due to the pandemic, however, employers can lay off employees due to special circumstances. For instance, they can lay off employers in less than 60 days due to “unforeseen business circumstances.” However, this exception doesn’t apply in the California version of the WARN Act, which only permits an unforeseen layoff in extreme circumstances, such as an act of war.

Constructive Wrongful Termination

Individual states might allow you to sue an employer if they forced you to quit. Perhaps you quit to protect yourself from exposure. Known as constructive wrongful termination, employees must leave due to unsafe working conditions.

California, for example, permits this type of legal recourse. The working conditions must be so deplorable that any reasonable person had no other choice but to depart the position.

The Importance of a Wrongful Termination Lawyer

A wrongful termination attorney has the necessary expertise to craft a strong defense in court. Choose an attorney who has experience in these matters.

Don’t choose a general-practice lawyer who doesn’t have a background in wrongful terminations. More importantly, choose a lawyer who has experience winning these cases, especially cases that are similar to your plight.

When it comes to COVID-19, the law can be unclear due to the pandemic’s unprecedented nature. The courts don’t have an extensive history of pandemic-related cases. Therefore, you need a lawyer to help you navigate these tricky waters.

What Can I Do About Wrongful Termination?

If you suffered through a wrongful termination, contact a lawyer immediately. They can tell you if you have a viable case. They can also help you find the appropriate evidence to buffer your case.

State and federal laws can protect victims of wrongful firing. With that, the pandemic has muddied the waters in terms of employee rights, and employers can use various loopholes to their advantage.

Are you still trying to determine if you’ve been wrongly fired? Click here to learn more.

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