A Table of Wrongful Termination and Other Employment Laws

Discrimination, Is It Worth It?, Online Damages Calculator
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What damages can I recover if I file a lawsuit against my employer?If you’ve been using our online damages calculator to assess the potential value of your employment discrimination case, you might be wondering whether you can really recover what it says you can. Remember that the calculator cannot tell you whether you have a case at all—your employer may have treated you terribly without actually doing anything illegal.

So, how do you determine whether your company’s actions were illegal? How do you figure out whether there is legal liability for its conduct?

Your Next Steps

That question is beyond the scope of this blog. (But see our liability example and a discussion of some ways you can recover even when you don’t have a winning case). The best advice I can give you is to see an employment lawyer. Or you can try your hand with free online services like Avvo.com that offer free or low-cost question-and-answer sessions with a lawyer.

Still, as with an assessment of potential damages, it never hurts to do your own research. The table below lists wrongful termination and other employment laws to point you in the right direction for further investigation. The table pairs a list of common employment problems with the law (or laws) that apply to those situations. Note that it’s possible that more than one set of laws applies to your situation. Use this information to conduct your own research or to help you find the right attorney to help you.

As mentioned above, note that the left column lists common employment problems, and the right column lists the federal laws that address those problems and the federal agencies regulating those areas of law. The table also highlights common state law employment issues.

A star beside a law means that you must file an administrative action—like filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—before you file in court.

EMPLOYMENT PROBLEM

APPLICABLE LAWS

I’ve been treated differently and it’s:

  • because of my race,
  • because of my sex,
  • because I am from another country,
  • because I have kids, or
  • because of my age.

 

*Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

For race claims only, see Section 1981

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Except for a 1981 action, all claims must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.eeoc.gov) first.

Many states and localities have strong antidiscrimination laws. Try searching for “[your state or county] human rights act.”

I’ve been treated differently because I am pregnant.*Pregnancy Discrimination Act

*Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

You may be covered under a state antidiscrimination law. For example, the D.C. Human Rights Act protects against discrimination based on pregnancy. Try searching for “[your state or county] human rights act.”

Also see the pregnancy discrimination section of this website.

Also see the caregiver discrimination section of this website.

I am not being paid properly.Fair Labor Standards Act

Equal Pay Act

These laws are regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov).

Your state may have its own wage-and-hour laws.

Also see the equal pay section of this website.

I am at work and it’s hell.

I am experiencing a hostile work environment because of my sex (yes, this applies to men too), race, or national origin.

 *Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
I am experiencing problems at work or I have been fired because I am stressed out, sleep deprived, and/or depressed.

I am experiencing problems at work because of a mental or physical disability, even if that disability is temporary.

I am experiencing problems at work because I asked for workplace changes—like a modified workspace—due to a physical or mental disability, even if that disability is temporary.

*Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Also see the disability section of this website.

I got fired or I am being treated differently at work because I asked for time off to care for myself or a family member.Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov)

*Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
If a family member is disabled, search for “ADA association clause.”

Also see the FMLA and leave discrimination section of this website.

My company tried to keep me from taking leave.

My company interfered with me while I was on leave.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov)

Also see the FMLA and leave discrimination section of this website.

I was fired for making a statement at work, orally or otherwise.*The National Labor Relations Act

U.S. Constitution, First Amendment (this covers government employees only)

Someone at my work or my former workplace is saying things about me that are untrue.Defamation (for spoken statements)

Libel (for written statements)

These are state law claims, so you will need to search the law in your state. Try searching for “[your state or county] defamation law” or “[your state or county] libel law.”

Caution: These state laws can be difficult to research because they are “common law” claims, established by judges through their case opinions rather than by a statute.

I got fired because the company didn’t want to pay my benefits.The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
The company screwed up my COBRA notice, and I lost my health insurance.The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
I got fired because I reported wrongdoing, like fraud, at my job.The False Claims Act

Qui tam

Research “whistleblower laws.” There are over 100 such laws on the federal level alone.

There are also a number of state-level whistleblower laws.

Also see the whistleblower section of this website.

I am being retaliated against at work for one of the following:

—telling HR or my boss that I thought I was being discriminated against on the basis of my

  • religion
  • sex
  • race
  • national origin

—telling my boss or HR that I was experiencing a hostile work environment because of my

  • sex
  • race
  • national origin

—telling HR or my boss that I thought someone else at work was being discriminated against

—asking for workplace changes because I have a disability

—having a disability

—for telling my boss or HR about page or wage violations

—taking FMLA leave

—telling my boss that I was discriminated against on the basis of age

See the antiretaliation provisions of the law that applies to the underlying discrimination:

Also see the retaliation section of this website.

I got fired because I wouldn’t do something illegal at work.Research “wrongful termination in violation of public policy” to get started.

Caution: These state laws can be difficult to research because they are “common law” claims, established by judges through their case opinions rather than by a statute.

My boss did something horrible to me at work—like repeatedly making racist jokes and then leaving a noose on my desk.Research “negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Your state may have a specific law or statute covering this, or you may have to look at the “common law,” which is law established by judges through their case opinions rather than by a statute.

My boss or my co-worker threatened to touch me or did touch me without my consent.Research “assault and battery.”

Your state may have a specific law or statute covering this, or you may have to look at the “common law,” which is law established by judges through their case opinions rather than by a statute.

You can also research workers’ compensation laws.

Pro Tip

When you’re researching online, avoid searching only for “wrongful termination.” While such a broad search might get you to the websites of lawyers who handle employment cases, it likely will not give you information tailored to your specific legal question. Any of the areas above could fall under “wrongful termination.” That label alone is not very helpful for figuring out what to do next.

Summing It Up

If you’ve been discriminated against at work, figuring out what law covers your specific situation—or indeed whether any law protects you and provides you with recourse—can be difficult, at best. Need more help than you can find on your own? We welcome you to reach out and talk to an attorney about your problem.