Employment Law

Washington is an “at will” employment state. This means, with rare exception, an employer has the right to fire or terminate an employee at any time without cause so long as it is not illegal. However, all employees have basic rights under federal and state employment laws and any termination in violation of these fundamental rights, or with another underlying illegal motive, is considered a wrongful termination. If you have been fired from your employment, you may not have been given a reason. Determining if a termination is illegal requires competent and knowledgeable legal counsel.

The most common employer motives for wrongful terminations are discrimination in violation of constitutional rights, hostile work environments based on sex or gender or retaliation for opposing the illegal conduct, or proposed illegal conduct, of the employer. Firing a worker in violation of an employment agreement may also constitute wrongful termination. While some workers have written contracts or employee handbooks, even those without written assurances may have an implied contract of expected behavior created by the employer’s words or actions.

Occasionally actions by an employer that violate constitutional rights may first require review by state or federal agencies designed to investigate and prosecute such behavior. If you have been fired in violation of your constitutional rights, or your employer is engaging in an ongoing pattern of illegal behavior, it is imperative to understand whether you need to first file an administrative complaint with these agencies before seeking compensation in court. The agencies may also have a statute of limitations for their administrative complaints that are different that the statute of limitations for the courts. If applicable, failure to adhere to these agency deadlines could adversely affect your right to later seek relief in the courts.

Most wrongful terminations are made by employers who try to conceal their illegal motives for the firing. Because employers generally have the right to fire a worker without providing a reason, it can be difficult to prove whether their actions were illegal. If you believe you are the victim of wrongful termination or your employer is engaging in an ongoing pattern of illegal behavior, it is imperative to speak to experienced legal counsel immediately. The actions you take now may profoundly affect your rights moving forward.

I will personally examine your case, evaluate your employer’s motives for firing you, and discuss with you the best options to ensure your rights are protected.

There is never a charge for the initial consultation.

Call me today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “at-will” employment mean?

Unless you are a union member or have an employment contact, your employment is likely “at will.” This means that your employer does not need a reason to fire you and can do so for no reason at all.  However, the employer is prohibited from firing you for an illegal reason such as discrimination or retaliation.

Am I entitled to severance pay if I get fired?

Severance pay is not controlled by statute but by a contract you may have with your employer.  If no such contract exists, you may not have any right to severance pay.  Some employers will consider negotiating a severance package in exchange for a release of liability for your termination.  Any negotiations involving a release of liability require careful analysis.    

Can I be awarded punitive damages for a wrongful termination?
Although some states authorize punitive damages for wrongful terminations, Washington does not. However, federal law does authorize the award of punitive dames for some wrongful terminations. Determining whether a wrongful termination falls under federal law for purposes of punitive damages is complicated.