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A wrongful termination claim can encompass a wide variety of different actions. Discrimination, retaliation for reporting discrimination, whistleblowing, refusing to comply with an illegal order, and even violating an employment contract's discipline or grievance procedures, can all give rise to wrongful termination claims. What's more is that the general legal claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy can encompass nearly any wrongful conduct on the part of an employer, so long as there is a compelling public policy reason.
Wrongful termination and employment claims are among the most risky and complex legal claims that private individuals bring against businesses. Likely as a result of that complexity and the varied outcomes that have resulted under strikingly similar facts, people often wind up holding misconceptions about wrongful termination claims. Below you'll find three of the most common myths about wrongful termination claims.
Myth # 1: You can't sue if you weren't discriminated against
Wrongful termination claims can be based upon conduct besides discrimination. Generally, wrongful termination in violation of public policy claims can be based upon any rights that have been violated by an employer in making a decision to terminate. Common claims that don't involve discrimination include retaliation for participating in a trial or government investigation, whistleblower retaliation, and even violations of collective bargaining agreements.
Myth # 2: You can't sue if you're an independent contractor
Whether you are an at-will employee or an independent contractor, you still have rights. While a true independent contractor will be more limited, frequently, independent contractors are misclassified and should be employees; and when they are misclassified, the law will treat them as employees. Additionally, an independent contractor may have other legal claims besides wrongful termination if there was a malicious or wrongful reason for termination.
If you are an at-will employee, you can absolutely sue your employer for wrongful termination. Just because a relationship is deemed "at-will" does not immunize an employer from being sued for wrongful conduct.
Myth # 3: You can't sue if you quit
Under the legal theory of constructive discharge, if an employment environment becomes hostile, dangerous, or intolerable, an employee may be able to quit and still sue. If a person was asked or forced to resign, they can also still sue. Generally, if a person believes, or has been specifically told, they are being forced to quit, then they should contact a qualified employment attorney to discuss their situation and their rights.