Each year, RSH Legal receives calls from individuals who tell us they believe they were fired for a reason that is “wrong” or “unfair” and they want to pursue legal action against their former employer. The question is: do they actually have a wrongful termination claim?
What Does Wrongful Termination Mean?
Often, these people are using the word “wrongful” in a very general sense. They are describing a situation where something about the firing doesn’t seem fair or “right” – it was overly harsh, based on false information, in violation of the employer’s own policies, or was simply handled unprofessionally.
But not every firing that feels or seems to be “wrong” is actually against the law in Iowa. The phrase “wrongful termination” or “wrongful discharge” has a very specific legal definition. It describes a situation where an employer fires an employee for a reason that is contrary to public policy.
Iowa is an At-Will Employment State – But That Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have Rights as an Employee
In legal terms, a “wrongful termination” case is just one of the paths to pursue legal action. Iowa is an “at will” employment state. This means that, generally speaking, Iowa employers and employees can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.
But being an “at will” employee doesn’t mean workers in Iowa have no rights in the workplace. Iowa law says that while most reasons for firing someone are legal, there are certain reasons that can make the firing illegal.
In addition to protections from certain types of workplace discrimination, courts in Iowa have also found that an employee might have a wrongful termination case if an employer fires an employee because the employee:
- Received or pursued Iowa workers’ compensation benefits.
- Reported illegal activity.
- Refused to lie on his or her employer’s behalf.
- Engaged in other conduct Iowa law protects.
If you have been fired for one of these reasons, you may be able to bring a “wrongful termination” case against your former employer.
When Should I Talk to an Iowa Employment Law Attorney?
You should get an experienced Iowa wrongful termination lawyer involved sooner rather than later if you sense that things aren’t going well at your workplace.
You should especially contact an employment law attorney if you think you are being discriminated against or fired for one of the illegal reasons we discussed. An attorney will be able to provide you with useful advice on how best to respond when things start getting difficult.
RSH Legal offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation to Iowans who believe they have been wrongfully terminated. To schedule yours, call 1-319-774-1783.