Wrongful Termination Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Wrongful Termination, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Wrongful Termination?

(n) When an employee is terminated from his services without adequate reasons warranting such termination or terminated against the standing rules of the organization and law of land or the agreement having with the employee in force, then such terminations are called wrongful termination. In such cases the employee can sue the employer for reinstatement or for compensation for the loss occurred to him.

History and Meaning of Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination is a term used in employment law to refer to when an employer fires an employee in breach of contract or in violation of the law. It was first recognized as a legal claim in the mid-20th century as the employment relationship became increasingly regulated. Prior to this, employment was largely considered to be a voluntary agreement between employer and employee.

Wrongful termination can occur for a variety of reasons, including discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, or even whistleblowing. In order to prove wrongful termination, an employee must demonstrate that they were terminated for an illegal reason, such as their race or gender, or in a way that breaches their employment contract.

Examples of Wrongful Termination

  1. An employee is fired after reporting sexual harassment by their supervisor to HR. This is considered retaliation and is illegal under employment law.
  2. An employer terminates an employee without cause in the middle of a fixed-term contract. This is a breach of contract and could be considered wrongful termination.
  3. An employee is fired for taking time off to care for a sick family member, which is protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is also considered wrongful termination.
  4. An employer terminates an employee after they refuse to engage in illegal activity. This is known as a wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

Legal Terms Similar to Wrongful Termination

  1. Discrimination - the unfair treatment of an employee based on their membership in a protected class (race, gender, religion, etc.)
  2. Retaliation - adverse action taken by an employer against an employee for engaging in protected activity, such as reporting discrimination or safety violations.
  3. Constructive discharge - a resignation that is forced by an employer due to intolerable working conditions, such as harassment or discrimination.