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Wrongful Termination: Washington State

Wrongful termination laws in Washington State are the laws, policies, and statutes that protect employees from unfair job dismissal in the state. These laws work in concert with federal laws to prevent on-the-job discrimination and uphold employees' rights.

A summary of Washington's wrongful termination laws

Washington's laws protect against unfair employee dismissal based on the following criteria:

Discrimination. No employer can fire an employee because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, military status; or sensory, physical, or mental disability. Exceptions with regard to age include dismissal from any job that requires extraordinary physical effort or endurance.

Health and family leave. Employers must keep jobs open for employees who take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth or adoption, or to care for themselves or a family member.

Family military leave. An employee is entitled to up to 15 days of unpaid leave with no employment consequences if their spouse is in the armed services and is about to be deployed or is on leave.

Domestic violence. If an employee is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the employee can take unpaid leave to seek treatment and secure legal assistance without losing employment.

HIV or Hepatitis C infection. Employees can't be fired if they receive positive results from an HIV or Hepatitis C test, unless their work puts them at risk of transmitting the disease.

Lie detector tests. Employees are not required to take a lie detector test as a condition of continued employment. Exceptions include law enforcement and national security personnel, as well as those dealing in controlled substances.

Genetic testing. Employees are not required to provide genetic medical data or submit to genetic tests as a condition of continued employment.

Filing a complaint. Employees can't be fired for filing a complaint regarding workplace rights or health and safety issues. They are also protected from losing their job if they blow the whistle on corporate misconduct.

It's important to note that Washington's Employment at Will Doctrine permits an employer to terminate an employee without warning and for no specific reason. However, if an employee was terminated based on any of the above criteria, there may be grounds for complaint.

If you were subject to wrongful termination in Washington State

Cases of wrongful termination can be complex, so it may be smart to seek a lawyer's advice. You can file a complaint with a government agency, file a private lawsuit, or both.

If you believe your dismissal was based on discrimination, file charges with the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you were fired after reporting on unsafe conditions, file with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Additional resources:

Washington State Legislature: Labor Regulations

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries: Termination

Washington State Human Rights Commission: The Complaint Process

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