Unlawful firing and layoffs
People are fired and laid-off all the time. Although most terminations are unfortunate and upsetting, they are usually not illegal. Colorado, like most states, is governed by the “at-will” employment doctrine. This means that employment can be terminated at any time, by either the employee or the employer, for any legally permissible reason. In practice, at-will employment gives employers considerable power.
At-will employees still have important legal rights. For the last few decades courts and legislatures have been subtly changing at-will employment to provide more protections for employees. Today, if an employee can prove that they were unfairly terminated for exercising a right protected by public policy, or in violation of an employment contract, they can establish a claim for wrongful termination.
The Law Office of Paul Maxon has extensive experience helping employees in Colorado determine whether they have legal grounds for pursuing wrongful termination claims, and can act as your partner in understanding and resolving your case.
When are firings and layoffs unlawful?
In Colorado, the public policy exception to at-will employment means that an employee cannot be fired for exercising a legally protected right. For example, an employee has the right to file a workers compensation claim for a workplace injury. If an employer fires the employee for filing a legitimate workers comp claim, then the employee has a claim for wrongful termination even if their employment was at-will.
There are many other employee rights protected under Colorado law, including:
- practicing your religion,
- refusing to follow an employer’s illegal order,
- participating in jury duty,
- making a discrimination or harassment claim, and
- freedom from illegal workplace discrimination.
If you have been fired for exercising any of these rights, you may have the basis for a wrongful termination claim.
The other exception to at-will employment is employment contracts. Firing an employee in violation of an employment contract or agreement is illegal, and can form the basis for a lawsuit against the employer. While most contracts are written and signed by both parties, there are also implied contracts which are created by the situations surrounding employment. For example, an employee handbook that includes termination procedures can create an implied contract that an employee will not be fired without those procedures being followed.
Like much of employment law, determining if a firing or layoff is illegal can be a complex process, and usually requires the assistance of a lawyer. If you think that you have been illegally fired or terminated, call us now at 303.473.9999 to schedule your consultation.