Written by Avvo Staff

Filing Wrongful Termination

Filing a wrongful termination complaint is a way for an employee to seek relief after an illegal dismissal. Employees should file their complaints with the federal or state agency that enforces wrongful termination. You are not required to have a lawyer to file a wrongful termination complaint. You can file on your own.

Filing discrimination-based wrongful termination complaints

You may file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if you believe your termination was due to discrimination. This includes discrimination on the base of age, race, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, or disability. You may file by mail or in person, or another person can file on your behalf. A charge must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation, or within 300 days if the charge is also covered by a state anti-discrimination law. For best results, file charges as soon as possible.

State laws may offer additional anti-discrimination protections based on such things as sexual orientation or marital status. You must file with the appropriate state agency if your termination was also in violation of a state law.

If you want to file a private lawsuit, you must first file charges with the EEOC. After that, it's advisable to contact a lawyer to proceed with a private lawsuit.

Filing FMLA wrongful termination complaints

If you were terminated for using family or medical leave or for opposing unlawful practices under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor through the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Standards Administration. You may file by mail or in person, or another person may file on your behalf.

You must file a complaint within two years of the violation, or within three years if the action taken by the employer was willful. For best results, file a complaint as soon as possible.

You don't need to notify the Secretary of Labor if you file a private lawsuit in court.

Filing wrongful termination complaints based on retaliation for whistleblowing

If you believe you were terminated for reporting a health or safety violation at your workplace or for enforcing health and safety laws, you may file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. File as soon as possible; depending on which law was violated, you have 30 to 180 days to file your claim.

Filing other wrongful termination complaints

Other potential cases of wrongful termination don't break specific laws. These may include violations of public policy or breaches of contract. In these cases, a terminated employee may only file a private lawsuit. A lawyer's advice may be particularly helpful for these violations.

Additional resources:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination

U.S. Department of Labor: FMLA Advisor

Occupational Health and Safety Administration: Your Rights as a Whistleblower

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