When determining whether you should pursue a wrongful termination case in Minnesota, you must first take a long hard look at why you believe you were fired. Minnesota employees in most situations are designated as “at-will” employees, which means that their employers can terminate them for any reason, so long as it is not illegal. So, even if the termination is illogical, unfair, or unethical, if the termination does not violate the law, the termination will be upheld.
That begs the question, “What termination decisions are illegal?”
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
Namely, any decision in which discrimination was the motivating factor behind the termination is illegal. Unfortunately, there are various forms of discrimination that occur daily, and we have represented various plaintiffs experiencing discrimination based on their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, and age. Discrimination based on any of these factors is illegal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Also, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee because the employee engaged in protected conduct. Protected conduct can include a variety of actions such as reporting violations or suspected violations (also known as ‘whistleblowing’), participating in an investigation or hearing, refusing to engage in unlawful activities, or interacting or associating with members of a protected class. Termination in this context is usually characterized as ‘retaliation’.
Finally, an employer may not terminate you for taking leave or requesting an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (‘ADA’) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (‘FMLA’). You also may not be terminated for filing workers’ compensation claims or for engaging in a union.
Winning Your Wrongful Termination Case
The next step to winning a wrongful termination claim is to prove that your employer terminated you for one of the illegal reasons listed above. Sometimes, the circumstances surrounding your termination will provide “direct” evidence of a wrongful termination. Direct evidence is where an employer specifically cites a particular reason for terminating an employee and that reason is not legal. For example, an employer telling an employee that she is being terminated “because she is pregnant and will be out of the office for three months anyway” is direct evidence of wrongful termination. More often, however, there will be no “smoking gun” direct evidence and a wrongful termination claim must be proven through “indirect” or “circumstantial” evidence. Indirect evidence of wrongful termination would occur where an employer terminates a pregnant woman with good job performance, retains her poor performing male peer, and provides a termination rationale that lacks credibility.
To accomplish this goal, you’ll first need to gather all potentially relevant documents. Your personnel file, any reviews or reprimands you’ve received, and your pay stubs are all important documents in proving a wrongful termination claim. Further, depending on the illegal reason for your claim, you’ll also need to gather relevant doctors’ notes, emails or communications with your coworkers and superiors, and any evidence related to your termination.
Support from Wrongful Termination Attorneys
There are various other means to winning a wrongful termination claim. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, it is important you speak with an experienced employment attorney. The team here at Schaefer Halleen would be happy to speak with you and determine how we might be able to help.