We are often contacted by people who have been fired, or think they are about to be fired, and they ask us whether they have a claim against their employer. The answer to that question will depend strongly on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding each case. Most jobs in Connecticut are “at-will”, meaning an employer can fire an employee at any time and for any reason, as long as that reason is permissible. (Connecticut courts recognize two exceptions to this concept: the termination cannot (1) violate an important public policy or (2) breach an implied contract of employment.) However, there are certain bright lines where an employer’s termination of an employee will violate state and federal laws. The following are four examples of wrongful terminations:
An employer cannot fire a worker because of the person’s age, sex (gender), race, disability, color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. If the employee falls within one of these protected classes, then the employer generally has the burden of proving the termination was based on a legitimate non-discriminatory business reason. If the employee does not fall within one of these protected classes, then the employee generally has the burden of proving the termination was based on discriminatory reasons.
2. Violation of federal or state law.
An employer cannot fire an employee for a reason that would violate state or federal law, for example, for taking time off that is allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Generally, if the employee is a member of union, then the union’s contract – the collective bargaining agreement – will typically list the reasons why the employee may be fired.
An employer may not terminate an employee in retaliation for making complaints about discrimination, or for testifying or assisting in a proceeding which is investigating potential discriminatory employment practices.
If you have questions about whether you have been wrongfully terminated, or for assistance with any other legal needs related to your business or estate planning, contact Fournier Legal Services for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860.670.3535.
Joe received his law degree from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Law and his Accounting degree from the University of Rhode Island. He is admitted to practice law in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and he is a CPA. He is an Adjunct Professor and lecturer at the University level and has been a frequent speaker on business planning and legal matters.
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