There’s good reason to be concerned after being wrongfully terminated from a job. You won’t have your usual income for a while so you’ll have to figure out how to pay your bills. You can look for another job, but you’ll need more than just a basic salary to pay your past-due bills.
If you were terminated illegally, you shouldn’t have to foot the bill for missing money. Have you been wrongfully terminated? Here’s what you should do as quickly as possible.
1. Contact an attorney immediately
If you believe your termination was illegal, contact an attorney right away. Whether the reason for your firing was discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or something else, you might have a strong case against your employer.
“The best cases are when you can disprove the reason your employer gave for firing you – like if your company said your position was eliminated, but you spent the last month training your replacement,” says attorney Eric A. Panitz of Wrongful Termination Law Group.
Presenting your case to an attorney is the only way to truly know if you have a case. Yes, you could compare your situation to other cases, but there are always nuances that make each case unique. You may not experience the same outcome as another, seemingly identical case.
There are additional reasons to connect with a wrongful termination lawyer even if you think you want to pursue a lawsuit pro se. Winning a case on your own will be hard. Not only that, but you’ll struggle to negotiate a fair settlement. Lawyers know what cases are worth, and they won’t let you get less than you deserve.
If you represent yourself and try to settle out of court, you won’t know where to start with negotiations. Your employer will likely lowball their offers, hoping you’ll accept whatever you can get. You really need an attorney to get the compensation you deserve.
2. Gather your documentation
You can’t build a strong case for a lawsuit without evidence. Start gathering your documentation and evidence as soon as possible and be as thorough as possible. Collect all of your emails, text messages, and physical letters. Also, write down verbal conversations as you remember them occurring. Document everything related to your situation, even if you don’t think it’s relevant because it might become relevant as your case proceeds.
“Hopefully you’ll have emailed yourself documents from work, or complained to your employer from your personal email before you were terminated. This allows you to retain documentation after your work email account has been shut off,” says Panitz.
3. Get witness statements
If any coworkers or managers witnessed harassment, abuse, retaliation, or sexual harassment, get statements from them. Start with people you know overheard or witnessed incidents. Then, go to other people you know to find out if they witnessed anything.
Don’t be afraid to ask everyone you know because they may have heard something when you weren’t around. Often, when there’s harassment or retaliation happening, other people are brought into the drama and comments are made in their presence.
You might even discover other employees having the same issues, but they have yet to be fired like you. These people may not be willing to provide a statement if they fear being fired. However, they may want to join your lawsuit. If you find someone in this situation and they’re skeptical, ask if they’re willing to talk to a lawyer to at least find out if they have a case also. Having a case might increase their confidence and willingness to speak out to support you.
4. Review your termination letter
Did you receive a termination letter? If so, review the content to see what reason you were given for your termination. Once you have this information, figure out if there’s any merit to the claim. For instance, if the letter claims you committed an infraction at work, but you didn’t, see if you can gather evidence to prove the letter wrong.
Sometimes all it takes is a little digging, like proving you weren’t on the schedule or at work the day of the alleged infraction. If you really did commit the infraction listed on the termination letter, you may have a harder time proving wrongful termination in a lawsuit, but it’s not impossible.
5. File the appropriate complaints
After being wrongfully terminated, you have the right to file complaints with certain agencies. For example, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and your state’s Labor Board.
You should also consider filing a complaint with your company by going to someone high up in the company. Don’t file a complaint with the boss who terminated you because they might not file your complaint. Go as high as possible to avoid having your complaint disappear.
Don’t wait to take action
No matter what your circumstances, don’t wait to take action. Whether you choose to sue your employer or file a complaint with the appropriate agency, take action immediately – time is of the essence.