It is fair to say that most employees feel their termination was wrongful—rarely does an employee agree they should have been fired. For example, an employee might feel their termination was wrongful because they did nothing wrong. An employee might think their termination was wrongful because they were merely trying to show their employer a better way of doing things, and the employer did not appreciate the help. While these situations can be challenging, the law only protects against certain actions by an employer.
“Discrimination” and “wrongful termination” are legal terms of art, and they have specific legal meanings. A wrongful termination is one that is made unlawful by a specific employment law, including those laws that protect against discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. In Texas, most people are employed “at will,” which means an employer can terminate their employment for any reason or no reason, so long as it is not an unlawful reason. For most people, this means the employer has the right to fire without “notice” or without “cause” – so long as the reason for doing so is not unlawful.
What is an unlawful reason? Both state and federal law make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of their race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, age, disability, military status, or for taking protected medical leave. It is illegal for an employer to consider any of these factors in making decisions regarding hiring, firing, demoting, or setting pay and benefits – often referred to as the “terms and conditions of employment.” If your employer has used any of these reasons to affect the terms and conditions of your employment (whether it is termination, demotion, setting pay, etc.), that is unlawful discrimination. If you think you have experienced unlawful discrimination, contact us, we can help.