“Wrongful Termination” is a legal term of art that is widely misunderstood by the general public. It is probably common for most Concord, N.H. residents to believe that a termination is “wrongful” if it is somehow morally unfair or done with malice by the employer. However, for a termination to be “wrongful” in a way that allows you to seek a legal recovery, very specific elements need to be proven, which is where our respected Concord wrongful termination lawyers come in. Our employment attorneys could investigate the case, explain your rights under the law, and seek out appropriate remedies from at-fault employers.
Before even addressing the elements of the legal claim of “wrongful termination,” it is important to understand that most employment relationships are “at will.” That simply means that both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time, and for (almost) any reason.
Under New Hampshire law, the legal claim of “wrongful termination” is a narrow exception to the general at-will employment relationship. To prove a claim for wrongful termination, you need to demonstrate that (1) the employee either committed an act that public policy would support or, (2) conversely, refused to commit an act that public policy would condemn and, (3) in response to the employee undertaking that protected action, the employer fired the employee and (4) did so in bad faith.
When one reads those elements carefully, what is important for employees to take away is that it is the employee’s conduct, just as much as the employer’s, which sets up a legally actionable claim for wrongful termination. Your employer can be awful to work for and fire you unfairly, and do so completely legally, if they do it for no particular reason. It is when the employer becomes awful in response to the employee taking protected action, that a claim of “wrongful termination” may become viable. Without that all important protected activity on the part of the employee, there will be no legal claim.
The crux of any wrongful termination claim will be whether the employee’s conduct was protected by public policy. Our state’s law says that the question of whether something rises to the level a public policy concern is generally a question for a jury, although in clear cut cases a judge may decide the issue.
It is generally accepted that “public policy” level issues concern serious wrongdoing that would potentially have some impact on society at large, as opposed to internal matters impacting only the employer. Employers are allowed to exercise a fair degree of “business judgment” on how they manage their internal affairs. That means that not every perceived slight or immoral action on the part of an employer will rise to the level a public policy concern. Examples of conduct that generally are commonly considered a public policy level issue are health and safety violations, fraudulent activities, and violations of statutory law.
Violations of statutory law are an important source of potential wrongful termination claims. Violations of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination are statutory violations that may give rise to a wrongful termination claim. In most cases where an employee is fired for unlawful discriminatory reasons, it is common to allege a wrongful termination claim in addition to the statutory discrimination claim.
It is also common for employees with wrongful termination claims to bring statutory claims under the Whistleblower’s Protection Act, NH RSA 275-E. If you have a claim for wrongful termination, it is quite likely you may also have a whistleblower claim, and vice versa.
Determining whether you have a viable wrongful termination claim obviously involves weighing a lot of factors and parsing out specific factual contexts. Experience and knowledge of the law, especially in what constitutes “public policy” level conduct on the part of the employee, are key. An experienced Concord lawyer, like the attorneys at Lehmann Major List, PLLC, may be able to help you if you believe you have lost your job illegally.
If you suspect that you were fired from your job because you engaged in protected activity, by either refusing to do something public policy would condemn or took action public policy would support, you may have the right to pursue a remedy. A Concord wrongful termination lawyer may be able to help you. Reach out today to learn more.