How to Prove Wrongful Termination Due to Retaliation?

If you lost your job because you spoke up about unlawful activities or stood up for your rights, you may sue for wrongful termination due to retaliation. But how do you prove wrongful termination due to retaliation? 

Some laws prevent companies from sacking workers who are claiming their legal rights.

Moreover, you’re protected if you report your company for illegal activities, like breaking consumer protection laws or committing fraud.

Remember, the burden of proof lies with the victim, and we’ll highlight how to prove wrongful termination due to retaliation.

Additionally, this article will look at the laws that protect you in these situations and how you can take action if you’ve been retaliated against.

a photo of how to prove wrongful termination due to retaliation
Wrongful termination
Source: Geiger-legal

What is Wrongful Termination Due to Retaliation?

Wrongful termination due to retaliation happens when an employer fires an employee for engaging in legally protected activities.

This includes refusing to participate in illegal actions, whistleblowing, or raising concerns about violations.

Federal laws, like the Civil Rights Act and others, safeguard employees from such retaliation.

If you’re fired for reporting illegal behavior, participating in an investigation, or asserting your rights under these laws, it could be considered wrongful termination.

What is Retaliation?

Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for standing up for their rights at work or reporting something illegal that’s happening there.

Many workplace rules, like those against harassment or not paying workers properly, rely on employees speaking up when there’s a problem.

Government agencies usually don’t check every workplace for these issues. However, they depend on workers reporting them.

But these agencies usually don’t sue employers themselves for breaking the rules, even if they investigate and find a problem.

It’s often up to the employee to take legal action to protect their rights.

Common Laws Protecting Workers From Retaliation

Here are some common laws that protect workers from retaliation:

  • Harassment and discrimination: You can’t be fired for reporting harassment or discrimination, participating in investigations, or exercising your rights under these laws.
  • Wage and hour laws: Your employer can’t fire you for complaining about not being paid minimum wage, overtime, breaks, or for tip-related issues.
  • Leave laws: You can’t be fired for taking leave under laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers’ compensation leave, voting or jury duty leave, or for taking legally protected sick leave.
  • Health and safety laws: You can’t be fired for reporting health and safety violations at work.
  • Worker’s compensation laws: Your employer can’t retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim for an injury on the job.

How to Prove Wrongful Termination Due to Retaliation

To prove retaliatory dismissal, you need to show three things.

First, that you’re fired or punished by your employer.

Second, you’re involved in activities protected by the law or you opposed something illegal your employer was doing.

Third, there’s a clear connection between what you did and getting fired.

It’s tough to prove this kind of case because you need strong evidence. You have to show that there’s a link between your wrongful termination and the protected activity you were involved in.

To do this, you need two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial.

  • Direct evidence

This can be written or spoken statements that clearly show the connection between your firing and what you did.

For example, emails, letters, conversations, voicemails, or statements from witnesses.

  • Circumstantial evidence

This is evidence that doesn’t directly prove something but strongly suggests it.

For instance, if multiple workers who complained about the company were fired, it creates a pattern that kind of prove retaliation by the employer.

How to File A Retaliation Complaint

To make a complaint about retaliation, you might need to report it to a government body before taking it to court.

For instance, if you’re fired for raising concerns about harassment or discrimination at work, you should file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

For cases related to wrongful termination under whistleblower rules, your complaint should go to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration first.

However, not all retaliation cases follow this procedure.

Some may allow you to go straight to court without filing with an agency, though it’s not mandatory.

An employment lawyer can guide you on the specific steps for your situation in your state.

How Much Can You Collect If You Win A Wrongful Termination Due to Retaliation Case?

The amount you receive if you win a retaliation or whistleblowing case depends on the strength of your claims.

Typically, a successful employee can request:

  • Back pay: the wages and benefits lost due to being wrongly terminated.
  • Reinstatement or front pay: either getting your old job back or being compensated for future lost wages until you find a new job.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses: any costs incurred because of the termination, like job search expenses.
  • Legal fees and court expenses.

In some instances, you might also receive compensation for “pain and suffering,”. This reflects on the emotional and physical harm caused by your employer’s actions.

Additionally, punitive damages might be available if your employer’s behavior was particularly severe.

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