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The warning signs of wrongful termination

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2023 | Employment Law - Employees

Technically, employers in West Virginia can fire at-will workers with no warning and no explanation. At-will employment laws give both companies and workers the right to terminate an employment agreement at any point without consequence, generally speaking.

However, just because a company can fire someone without reason does not allow them to make employment decisions with impunity. They must still abide by federal and state laws, which include prohibitions on retaliation and discrimination.

As a result, workers sometimes lose their jobs in what they believe was an illegal action by their employer and then question how they might fight back. Understandably, people sometimes struggle to identify whether their firing (or layoff situation) amounts to a wrongful termination. These are some of the warning signs that a firing was inappropriate or possibly illegal.

Questionable timing

One of the strongest indicators that there may be an issue with a company’s decision to let a worker go is when they choose to take action. When a termination occurs shortly after someone reports harassment, requests unpaid leave or informs an employer of the need for accommodation because of a work injury, then that is a possible warning sign that the termination has its basis in a worker’s protected activity.

Recent questionable discipline

Workers who felt frustrated when their boss wrote them up for something that other team members do with impunity may later realize that the write-up was part of a progressive discipline effort. The goal was to create a paper trail justifying their termination. Each write-up or complaint that seemed minor can add up to justify what is actually an inappropriate firing.

A trend in who gets let go

Sometimes, an individual worker is not the only one who loses their job. Large-scale terminations and layoffs are common during economic downturns or after mergers. When there is an obvious trend among those who get let go, such as most of the employees over a certain age or from a certain racial background, workers may have reason to question whether their termination was wrongful.

Those who believe that protected workplace activities or personal characteristics played a role in their job loss may have grounds to fight back. Learning more about how employers try to skirt employment laws can help workers assert their rights with the help of an experienced legal professional after losing a job unexpectedly.


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