Wrongful termination laws are federal and state laws that protect employees from unfair job dismissal practices. These laws have been enacted to prevent on-the-job discrimination and uphold employees' rights. Wrongful termination laws also include regulations that prevent an employer from retaliating against legal employee activities, such as taking authorized leave or reporting on corporate misconduct.

Wrongful termination laws regarding discrimination

Federal laws protect against employment discrimination in the following categories:

Age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees 40 years of age or older against unfair dismissal based on age.

Race and color. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits dismissal based on race, perceived race, or marriage to someone of a particular race.

Gender and pregnancy. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from unfair dismissal based on sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.

Religion and national origin. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits unfair termination practices based on an employee's religion, ancestry, or accent.

Disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits an employer from terminating a qualified employee who has, or has a record of, a physical or medical impairment. The law does not apply in cases of illegal drug and alcohol abuse.

Protesting against discrimination. The laws that prohibit job discrimination also protect employees from being fired for picketing or otherwise opposing discriminating practices, filing a charge of discrimination, or cooperating with investigators in a discrimination case.

Other wrongful termination laws

Labor laws, health and safety laws, and areas of public policy offer additional protection from wrongful termination.

The Bankruptcy Act contains provisions that prohibit an employer from terminating an employee because of bankruptcy or unpaid debts.

The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or their families without losing their job.

** The National Labor Relations Act** allows workers in interstate commerce to organize as unions and participate in union activities without fear of dismissal.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and federal occupational safety and environmental laws have provisions that protect employees who report on corporate fraud or health and safety violations from losing their jobs in retaliation for their acts.

It's important to note that the Employment at Will Doctrine, accepted in all states, permits an employer to terminate an employee for no specific cause. However, if an employer violates established public policies of the state, the doctrine may not apply and the termination may be illegal (for example, if an employer asks an employee to break a law).

Similarly, if a written or implied contract is breached when an employee is terminated, the doctrine may not apply (for example, if an employer fails to follow the discharge proceedings as outlined in an employee manual).

Additional resources:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Types of Discrimination

Employee Issues.com: Wrongful Termination Laws

Employment Law Information Network: Federal Employment Laws

Related Legal Guides:

Labor Law

National Labor Relations Act

Workplace Harassment