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Joshua Newville, Minnesota Employment Lawyer, Civil Rights Attorney, and Mediator

Wrongful termination refers to an employment relationship that is terminated unlawfully. Although it is true that most employees are considered "at-will" and can generally be fired for any reason or no reason at all, the reason cannot be one that is prohibited by law or contract.

Minnesota Mediator and Investigator for Wrongful Termination Claims

As an employment law mediator and investigator who handles cases in Minnesota and beyond, I seek to help parties who are locked in dispute over claims of wrongful termination — including employees, employers, and entrepreneurs. 

What is wrongful termination in Minnesota?

Wrongful termination, also known as wrongful dismissal or wrongful discharge, is a legal term that describes a situation where an employer's termination of an employee's job breaches one or more terms of the employment contract, a specific law, or a public policy. Wrongful termination can occur in various forms and may include the following scenarios:

  • Breach of Contract: If an employer has a written contract with an employee and terminates the employee in a way that violates the terms of that contract, it can be considered wrongful termination. This can also apply to violations of company policies as outlined in an employee handbook or manual, which may constitute an implied contract.

  • Violation of Anti-Discrimination Laws: Federal and state laws protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, and genetic information. In some states, protections also extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. If an employer fires an employee based on any of these protected characteristics, it can be considered wrongful termination.

  • Retaliation: It's unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for engaging in "protected activity." This can include a wide range of actions, such as filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment, whistleblowing on illegal activities, taking legally protected leave, participating in an investigation within the workplace, and more.

  • Violation of Public Policy: An employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that society recognizes as illegitimate grounds for termination. For example, an employer cannot fire an employee for taking time off work to serve on a jury or to vote, because these activities are protected by public policy.

  • Constructive Discharge: This happens when the employer doesn't directly fire the employee, but instead makes the working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced to quit. If those intolerable conditions violate laws (for example, they involve harassment or discrimination), the employee's resignation could be considered a wrongful termination.

What does NOT constitute wrongful termination in Minnesota?

While wrongful termination refers to situations where an employer's decision to terminate an employee breaches a law, contract, or public policy, there are many circumstances under which an employer can lawfully terminate an employee. Here are some examples:

  • At-Will Employment: In the United States, the default employment relationship is "at-will," meaning that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason or for no reason, as long as the reason is not illegal (such as discrimination or retaliation). This means that an employer can terminate an employee because of a business decision, like restructuring or downsizing, or because of performance issues, or even because of personality clashes, so long as the reason isn't protected by law. Similarly, an employee can resign from their job at any time without providing a reason. However, the "at-will" rule is subject to exceptions, such as contractual provisions or certain public policy exceptions.

  • Poor Performance or Misconduct: If an employee is not performing their job duties satisfactorily, or if they have engaged in misconduct, employers can generally terminate the employee without it being considered wrongful. This can include consistent tardiness, failure to meet job performance standards, insubordination, or violating company policies.

  • Economic Reasons: If a company is going through financial difficulties, it might need to lay off employees or shut down entirely. These terminations, if done in a non-discriminatory manner, are typically legal.

  • End of Contract or Temporary Position: If an employee is hired for a specific period of time or for a specific project, their employment can lawfully end when the contract expires or the project ends.

  • Violation of Company Policy: If an employee violates a company policy, this may be a legitimate and legal reason for termination. For example, if a company has a policy against workplace violence, and an employee engages in violent behavior, that employee can likely be legally terminated.

Related Topics:

Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
Minnesota Employment Discrimination Attorney
Minnesota Whistleblower Attorney
Minnesota Legal Investigations Attorney
Minnesota Retaliation Attorney
Minnesota Workers Compensation Retaliation Attorney
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