Wrongful Termination Claims in Colorado
Claims of wrongful termination in Colorado usually fall into one of three categories: wrongful termination or wrongful discharge in violation of public policy; discrimination or retaliation; and breach of contract.
Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public PolicyA claim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy generally arises where an employee has been fired for complaining about being required to perform an illegal act. A claim can be shown where an employer directed the employee to perform an illegal act as part of the employee's work-related duties, the action directed by the employer would violate a statute or clearly expressed public policy, the employee was terminated as a result of refusing to perform the illegal act; and the employer was aware or should have been aware that the employee's refusal was based upon the employee's reasonable belief that the act was illegal. There may be other avenues to pursue such a claim based on the specific circumstances of the case.
Discrimination or RetaliationFederal and state laws provide protection for employees against unlawful discrimination and retaliation. Federal statues include, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) prohibits illegal discrimination based on disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry. Under CADA, retaliation is also prohibited where an adverse action is taken against an individual because of participation in a protected activity, such as opposing a discriminatory act, filing a complaint of discrimination, or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Additionally, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an individual for exercising their rights under the FMLA.
Breach of ContractBreach of contact claims can arise based on agreements or contracts between the parties that address the terms and conditions of employment, including employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, and employee handbooks. Such claims are fact specific depending on a number of factors, including the binding nature of the agreement, whether the agreement was express or implied, whether there was reliance on the agreement (promissory estoppel), and modifications to the agreement.
ConclusionEmployees in Colorado are generally considered to be "at-will" and can be terminated at any time. However, where a termination or removal is unlawful, it may form the basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit. This guide provides an overview of common wrongful termination claims in Colorado. It is not a comprehensive list of all possible claims for an unlawful firing or laws prohibiting an employer from discharging an employee or contractor. If you believe you are the victim of wrongful termination, you should contact an attorney.