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Was your job termination legal?

Whether it came out of the blue or you have felt something brewing for months, the day your manager fired you was likely one of the most stressful days you have gone through. Despite the humiliation of clearing out your desk, the main thing you focused on was the overwhelming worry about how you would pay your bills and provide for your family.

Your employer may have given you reasons or excuses for your termination, and Oregon follows most states that have "at will" employment. This means your boss usually does not need a reason to let you go. However, something about the situation is nagging at you. Was your employer within his or her rights to fire you? How can you tell if you lost your job unfairly?

Common reasons for unlawful firing

In most cases, the termination of an employee is lawful, and a worker who loses his or her job would be better off moving forward than wasting energy on a lost cause. Nevertheless, you may be among those whose employer stepped over the line. You may want to explore your legal options if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Did you recently report your employer for illegal or unethical actions? If so, your employer may have illegally fired you in retaliation for your whistleblowing.
  • Did you recently file a workers' compensation claim? Employers must work with you so you can return to work quickly or have a valid reason to let you go after an injury.
  • Did you sense or experience discrimination on the job because of your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy or other protected status? This discrimination may have been the basis for your termination.
  • Did you discuss with your co-workers any ideas or plans to improve the workplace, such as seeking higher wages or better working conditions? Your boss may have fired you to remove a perceived threat to the status quo.

Of course, if you signed an employment contract when the company hired you, you would be wise to read it carefully before taking any legal action. Your contract may require your boss to have cause for your termination, such as poor job performance or willful misconduct. If this is the case, your employer must be able to provide documentation of the cause to be within the boundaries of a lawful termination.

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