Was your termination a breach of contract?

Imagine you've been working in the same job -- at the same law firm -- for the last 16 years. When you started at the company, you were in your early 20s, straight out of college, and now you're almost 40.

You gave your youth to that job, and you found it rewarding, but last week you were unexpectedly terminated from your position. That's when you decided to read the dusty old employment contract you signed so many years ago.

After a cursory review, it appears that your employer may have wrongfully terminated you in violation of the contract.

When a wrongful termination breaches your employment contract

One of the most common types of employment-related wrongful termination happens in violation of an employment contract. Sometimes, these violations contradict the terms of a written contract. Other times, they violate the terms of an oral or implied contract. If you suspect this happened to you, check to see if you can answer "yes" to any of these questions:

  • Did you have a written contract and did it lay the ground rules for a permissible situation that warrants termination, or a procedure to follow for termination?
  • Does your employer offer a detailed handbook for employees and did it talk about discipline, termination or advancement procedures?
  • Did your employer ever give you a verbal promise, like, "Don't worry, your job is guaranteed," or, "Don't worry, you have tenure now," in relation to your employment?
  • Did your supervisor or employer every communicate any information that you can only be fired under specifically stated circumstances?

If you can answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, this fact could potentially support a legal claim for wrongful termination depending on the background information that surrounds the issue.

Did you lose your job under suspicious circumstances?

If you lost your job under suspicious circumstances, make sure you learn about your employment rights under Arizona and federal law. Understanding more about your legal issues -- and the laws that apply to it -- will give you a better sense of whether you have a viable claim that warrants pursuit in court.

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Elizabeth D. Tate, Attorney at Law
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