If you have been fired for reasons that you think may be unlawful, you should immediately seek legal aid by consulting an attorney to find out if you have any basis upon which to file suit against your former company for wrongful termination. Don’t go for the high-profile attorney who defends criminals; look for a lawyer well established in workers’ rights issues ranging from harassment to a hostile work environment. If the situation applies, you should even find an attorney well versed in laws related to discrimination against immigrants . The more your attorney knows about the different laws, rules, regulations and Congressional acts related to wrongful termination, the better your chances of winning your case.
Since you have just lost your job, it is probably advisable to also seek free legal advice before you commence a serious pursuit of your case for wrongful termination. After getting a layman’s understanding of the legal definitions of terms like wrongful termination, hostile work environment, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and the like, the next step is finding an attorney experienced in those issues. If you are convinced that you were wrongly terminated from your job because you complained too much about the hostile work environment created by your boss, for instance, your attorney search should zero in on a lawyer who has dealt with wrongful termination cases based on complaining about a hostile work environment. Obvious enough, right? Yet I know a lawyer who handles worker complaints who constantly gets calls from business owners wanting representation for committing exactly the kind of illegal acts he files suit against. The point being that you shouldn’t waste your attorney search time looking for a specialist in age discrimination when the issue at hand is being fired because of the way you dress.
One possibility is that you will exit that first attorney consultation with legal advice that boils down to not having a leg to stand on. If you do not head straight home to commence another attorney search for a wrongful termination lawyer with experience in workers’ rights issues related to a hostile work environment (or discrimination or whatever reason you believe was the cause of your being unlawfully fired), it could be the biggest mistake you will ever make. The first thing to learn about seeking legal advice about labor laws and your right not to be fired for unlawful reasons is that you never accept the opinion that you do not even have a case from the first attorney you consult. This is doubly true if you live in a small town in which the company that fired you is the most powerful employment force. Regardless of the circumstance, you should never end your search for representation in filing a wrongful termination suit until you have consulted with, at the very least, a half dozen attorneys. And that legal advice should come from attorneys in your city, outside your city and even outside your state.
If the attorney confirms your suspicions of wrongful termination, by the time the initial consultation ends you should have learned quite a bit of information that will be vital as the process of seeking restitution continues. For one thing, you should know what your legal rights are relative to wrongful termination based on common workplace issues like discrimination and harassment. You should also know just how much confidence the attorney has that you can win your suit through settlement, arbitration or actually going to court.
Part of the legal advice you receive during that initial attorney consultation is understanding the range of actions that can be undertaken to deal with your situation. For your part, you need to make sure the lawyer fully understands your objective in filing a lawsuit. If you are filing a wrongful termination lawsuit more on the basis of revenge than monetary restitution, let the attorney know. He will then let you know if he’s up to the job of vengeance. Not every workers’ rights attorney will take on a case that is really about vengeance, but don’t automatically assume that none will. (Call Saul Goodman!) Just be prepared to pay handsomely in return for wreaking public revenge.
And that is the final element that you should take from the initial attorney consultation: what are the legal fees, how are they disbursed and how much of the monetary gain from your lawsuit will go to you and how much will go to the law firm.
Most cases of wrongful termination never make it to a courtroom. The overwhelming number of suits filed against employers for unlawful firing of employees are settled well away from a judge and jury. Listen closely to the legal advice your attorney is providing and take his advice unless you are so absolutely set on taking that former employer to court for the purpose of embarrassment that actually winning a judgment just doesn’t matter. If your wrongful termination was based on being a whistleblower about issues like discrimination, harassment or creating a hostile work environment and you just want to pursue the case for the purpose of exposing the truth, then clearly you should ignore any advice that doesn’t present you with that opportunity. If neither of those contingencies are at stake, then follow your workers’ rights attorney’s advice to settle out of court. You will probably get far more than you would if the lawsuit went before a jury because court costs are going to up your legal fees.
Many wrongful termination cases are concluded long before they get anywhere near a courtroom because from the employer’s point of view it is better to bury your grievance about wrongful termination because of highly unpopular things like age discrimination or sexual harassment for a modest settlement than to publicly expose it. So that means you should always follow counsel’s legal advice on settling out of court, right? Not necessarily. Statistics are a little murky, but you may actually stand a better chance of winning damages in court than your lawyer suspects. Only a fool takes the first offer, though, right? Well, not necessarily. If you are on familiar terms with how your former employer has handled wrongful termination complaints in the past, you may not want to put the negotiation process into play much past the first offer. If they make a solid offer that is more than you expected, grab it.