Wrongful termination, also referred to as wrongful discharge, is the act of firing an employee for an illegal reason. In Arizona, most employees work “at-will,” which means that an employee can be legally fired at any time and for any reason — including no reason at all. However, the reason for the firing cannot be unlawful.
Some of the most common examples of wrongful termination in Arizona include:
- Discrimination and retaliation
- Company policies
- Medical conditions and disabilities
Continue reading to learn more about these wrongful termination examples.
Discrimination and Retaliation
Both federal and state law prohibit discrimination and retaliation in employment meaning employers cannot make employment-related decisions based on certain protected characteristics or because an employee reasonably complained about discrimination or participated in an investigation. In Arizona, employees cannot be discriminated against based on their race, religion, color, national origin, age (for those 40 or older), sex, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran or active duty service member.
Discrimination laws cover all types of employer conduct, such as hiring decisions, recruiting practices, work conditions, pay levels, training, promotions, performance evaluations, employee benefits, and terminations. Employees also have protections against adverse employment actions because they complained about discriminatory behavior or participated in an investigation.
Employees who believe that they have been discriminated or retaliated against in the workplace have the right to file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
While most employees do not have signed employment contracts with their employers, some do. Signed employment contracts between employers and employees may clearly define termination procedures, including possible reasons for termination. An employer that disregards terms of an employment contract could result in breach of contract.
If an employer breaks a valid employment contract and terminates an employee unlawfully or in breach of the contract, the employer may owe the employee damages for the breach.
An employee may be deemed a “whistleblower” if he or she reports wrongdoing within an organization to management or people outside of the organization. In retaliation, if the employer choses to fire the employee, the employee may have a claim against his or her employer.
In Arizona, it is unlawful to terminate an employee who reports violations of the law or reports concerns to management about someone within the organization that is violating the Arizona Constitution or an Arizona statute. It is also unlawful to fire an employee who refuses to engage in an illegal activity. There are numerous laws that protect whistleblowers and each is specific about how the law provides protection based on the unique situation and type of violation.
Medical Conditions and Disabilities
Termination of employment due to an employee’s health or disability may also be wrongful under both state and federal laws. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have certain provisions that protect qualified employees from termination based on certain medical conditions and other circumstances. The FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition and an employee cannot be legally terminated for using this leave.
A serious health condition is defined by the law as any injury, illness, impairment, or mental or physical condition that results in a period of incapacity. Examples include chronic health conditions like epilepsy, inpatient care in a hospital or medical care facility, or a long-term condition in which treatment is not effective, such as a stroke. It may also include the need for multiple treatments, such as chemotherapy. The ADA also provides protection for qualified persons with disabilities from wrongful discharge.
Filing for Wrongful Termination in Arizona
An employee who feels like he or she has been wrongfully terminated may have the right to pursue legal action against an employer or business. Damages that may be recovered in a wrongful termination case include lost wages, future wages, mental anguish, lost benefits and medical expenses, payment for job search costs, attorneys’ fees, and possibly punitive damages.
In Arizona, a state law wrongful termination lawsuit must be filed within one year of the termination date. As proving a wrongful termination case can require an in-depth investigation and an extensive amount of proof, it is important to work alongside an attorney experienced in wrongful termination cases. For more information about examples of wrongful termination in Arizona or to speak with a reputable employment law attorney, contact the highly-qualified legal team at JacksonWhite Law.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.