Know Your Rights as An Employee
With Utah being an at-will employment state, your rights as an employee have limits. However, your employer’s power is not absolute. While businesses may attempt to hide an improper firing by hiding behind their right to do so without reason, an informed employee can fight back. Here are the situations in which an employee dismissal may be illegal.
When it Breaks an Employment Contract
Any employer that signs employment contracts, or infers them through leadership actions or company materials, must follow the terms of that agreement when letting employees go. This means they must have cause, as outlined in the contract, to fire you. If they violated any of a contract’s terms, such as failing to discuss performance issues with you before letting you go, you may be able to file a claim.
Your contract might be a document you signed when you started your job, or it may be an agreement between your union and employer. For those who do not have a physical contract with signatures, consider discussions you had with your bosses; the terms laid out in your employee handbook; or promises made via email, Slack, or another channel. The more evidence you can gather to support your expectation you would not be fired without cause, the stronger your case will be.
When Your Firing Was Due to Discrimination
Your boss may be able to fire you for no reason in Utah, but there are some reasons they cannot use to explain your dismissal. While few managers are careless enough to verbalize an illegal act of discrimination, you may be able to gather circumstantial evidence to support your claim. (If your boss does directly attack you for one of the below reasons, you should immediately make a record and, if possible, speak with any witnesses to the incident.)
The Utah Antidiscrimination Act, which applies to all companies with 15 or more employees, prohibits firing based on:
- Race, color, or national origin
- Gender identity
- Age (for those over 40)
- Pregnancy or childbirth
- Disability status
- HIV/AIDS status
- Sexual orientation
- Genetic information
What happens if you believe you were illegally fired, but your boss was wise enough to keep their mouth shut about the reason? If you can show you faced discrimination for one of the above reasons, it will support your claim. For instance, did your boss start treating you differently after learning about your sexual orientation? Or were you the target of jokes based on your race or the country you came from? Any instance of being singled out for one of the characteristics above can serve as evidence in an employment claim.
When You Were Fired As a Retaliatory Measure
Employees have the right to a safe, respectful, and fair workplace, and it is illegal for employers to retaliate against anyone who takes steps to advocate for themselves or others. You cannot be fired because you:
- Filed for workers’ compensation
- Reported discrimination
- Participated in an investigation of a discrimination complaint
- Blew the whistle on unsafe or unethical practices
In short, if you used the law or any of the resources available to you to help ensure a fair workplace and were fired because of it, you should speak to an attorney.
When Absences Were Due to Certain Protected Duties
Most people don’t like getting the call to jury duty, but except in rare situations, your job is not an excuse to skip out. If your employer expects you to and fires you for not complying, this is an example of illegal termination.
Employees also must be granted military leave; voting leave (if they do not have at least 3 hours off while polls are open); leave to attend court to support a minor child, and family and medical leave (FMLA) if eligible. An attorney can help you figure out what rights are protected in the above situations and whether yours were violated.
When Your Employer Acted in Bad Faith
Though harder to pin down, our courts do stand up for employees who can prove they were wronged by their employer. Even for those who do not have employment contracts, the law recognizes the obligation of both parties to treat each other well. If your employer deliberately seeks to cheat you, you may be able to bring a case.
For example, some companies offer benefits like stock options, profit sharing, or pensions to employees who have worked with the company for a certain number of years. If an employee is removed from their job for no cause weeks or even days before they are set to receive this long-term (and therefore potentially costly) benefit, they could argue the company’s actions were made in bad faith to protect its own bottom line. Because such cases are ruled based entirely on court precedent, it’s important to speak with an attorney to figure out how to present such a claim.
We Hold Unethical Employers Accountable
Owning a company may confer certain benefits, but employers are not allowed to discriminate and otherwise mistreat their workers, no matter their individual feelings on the matter. If you were wrongfully fired, it is your right to file a claim. Our team is here to help. With a strong attorney on your side, you can fight back after wrongful termination to recover back wages and benefits and potentially even be reinstated in your old position.
Employment law exists to level the playing field between companies and individual workers. We can help you stand up against an employer that acted illegally, whether it was a small business, national corporation, or the government.
Contact Pearson Butler at (800) 265-2314 with your questions about wrongful termination and other employment law claims. We are here to fight for you.