Losing your job can throw your life into uncertainty. How will you support yourself? Will you be able to find a new position? Many who lose their job unexpectedly and without explanation may have another serious question: did their employer break the law?
What is “at-will” employment?
Wisconsin law recognizes what is known as “at-will” employment. This means that employers can terminate an employee for almost any reason and at any time, EXCEPT an illegal reason.
What are the exceptions?
Employees who unexpectedly lost their job without explanation will want to look carefully at the circumstances of their termination. Is it possible that they have been singled out because of their race, gender or age or other illegal reason? Could this be the result of bringing a safety concern to their employer’s attention or reporting illegal activity or engaging in protected concerted activity?
Employees may also want to seek legal advice after termination – or preferably before when possible. An attorney can help them closely examine the details of their situation and determine whether their employer may have broken the law.
Keep in mind that the choice is not necessarily a federal jury trial or doing nothing. Often an attorney-negotiated compromise with the employer can make all the difference in being able to obtain new employment. For example, extending your employee status while you seek alternative employment, receiving some severance, or obtaining a letter of reference in lieu of a discharge can get an employee on to the path to reemployment without protracted litigation.