Legal Rights for Workers in Wrongful Termination Claims

Sad worker wrongfully terminated from employment

Losing a job can be a distressing experience, especially when it feels unjust. You may be left wondering whether you have any options. In Virginia, employees have legal rights that protect them from wrongful termination. Understanding these rights is crucial for those who believe they have been unfairly dismissed. 

Virginia follows the at-will employment doctrine, meaning that, in the absence of a contract or collective bargaining agreement, either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. However, this does not give employers the right to terminate employees for unlawful reasons.

What is Considered Unlawful?

While employers have the discretion to terminate employees in an at-will employment arrangement, they cannot do so for discriminatory reasons. Federal and state laws prohibit termination based on factors such as: 

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • National origin

Retaliation Protections

Virginia law provides protection against retaliation for employees who engage in legally protected activities. If an employee reports illegal activities, participates in an investigation, or asserts their rights, they are shielded from retaliation, including termination.

Implied Employment Contracts

Although at-will employment is the default, certain circumstances may create an implied contract that limits an employer’s right to terminate without cause. Employee handbooks, company policies, or verbal assurances regarding job security could be considered factors contributing to an implied contract.

Public Policy Exceptions

Virginia recognizes public policy exceptions to at-will employment, meaning that an employee cannot be terminated for reasons that violate public policy. For instance, firing an employee for refusing to engage in illegal activities or reporting unlawful conduct would be against public policy and therefore illegal. 

Breach of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Employees in Virginia have a right to expect good faith and fair dealing in the employment relationship. Wrongful termination claims may arise if an employer acts in bad faith, breaches an employment contract, or violates established policies.

Procedural Safeguards

Employees facing termination are entitled to certain procedural safeguards. This includes the right to be informed of the reasons for termination and an opportunity to respond to any allegations made against them.

Unemployment Benefits

Virginia workers terminated without cause may be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, eligibility criteria and the circumstances surrounding termination can impact the receipt of these benefits.

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Have Been Wrongfully Terminated

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated in Virginia, it can greatly impact many aspects of your life. That’s why it’s crucial that you seek the guidance of an experienced Virginia attorney as soon as possible. 

A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the circumstances, determine the validity of a claim, and advocate for your rights, ensuring that you receive fair treatment in the face of employment challenges. This may mean monetary compensation and/or the reinstatement of your position. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we will help fight for your rights. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Employment Law