WRONGFUL TERMINATION/DISCRIMINATION: DO YOU HAVE ANY PROTECTION AGAINST YOUR EMPLOYER?
It is happening to a lot of people. They have worked for their employer for a long time, and maybe because we like to feel good about whatever we have committed to, most of us believe in our company and work hard for it.
But the unavoidable truth is that many, if not most, companies, faced with the need to cut costs wherever possible, have found that the most effective way to do that is to cut employees. So many who have worked for their companies are finding themselves out of work, or perhaps are still employed but see the dark cloud on the horizon. And who will these companies look to cut? Mostly, it is those who for one reason or another are not as productive as others, or those who because of their time on the job, are making more than others in a similar position or are headed for a pension. Sometimes, it is just the people whom the supervisor does not like.
Is there any protection? Here are three possible areas that could provide you with some defense:
1. The company violates an employment contract with you. A few upper level employees may have actual contracts. More often, the contract may be the company’s employee manual, which you are deemed to have agreed to by virtue of working at the company. We are in a hotly-contested employment arbitration right now where the breach of contract claim is based on such a manual.
2. Sometimes, the termination can be challenged because the company has failed to comply with its own published policies and procedure for discipline. In most instances, the procedure is an oral warning for the first infraction, followed by a written warning for the second infraction, followed by termination after the third infraction. Companies have various ways of arguing that they are not subject to their own procedures. Does that make sense?
3. The company cannot discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, race, disability or age. It is the last two that show up in our office most often for the reason described above. Companies will try to get rid of the senior manager who because of his tenure is getting paid more than a younger worker doing the same work. And the company, by getting rid of the older worker, can also avoid the upcoming pension. This sort of motivation is not always easy to prove, but it is illegal.
There is no question that it is tough going for employees in Arizona in the best of circumstances, and the situation is often made worse by the fact that the termination has put the employee in a difficult financial situation. This is why most employment lawyers work for employers, not employees.
But you do have rights, and you need to see an Arizona Contract Lawyer or Business Litigation lawyer to get a clear picture of your options.