Wrongful termination in Alabama
A practical guide for employees in 2023
A practical guide for employees in 2023
Like most states in the USA, employment in Alabama is “at-will”, which means that in most cases, an employer can change an employee’s employment terms and conditions at any time, without notice or reason.
This simply means at-will employees can be fired or demoted at any time.
However, employees do have some protection at the workplace, as there are numerous exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine in Alabama.
This article will discuss these exceptions and offer advice on what to do if you feel you were wrongfully terminated in Alabama.
Table of Contents
Firstly, there are a few types of employees who are generally protected to some extent from the at-will doctrine:
If you fall into any of the above categories, make sure to check the terms of your employment if you feel adverse employment action was taken against you.
Secondly, beside the above groups, there are exceptions to the at-will rule that cover all employees. These exceptions are defined by federal, state and local laws. They declare a termination wrongful, when an employee is fired for an unlawful or impermissible reason.
The following list of exceptions to employment at-will protect existing employees, as well as job applicants.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects employees and job applicants who are over 40 years old from being discriminated against at the workplace. Based on this act, an employer cannot discriminate against employees because of their age with regard to all employment, remunerations, terms or conditions.
Constructive discharge occurs when the work environment becomes so intolerable in violation of a law, that an employee feels forced to resign.
Such cases are hard to prove, as the victim has to show that as a result of illegal treatment and/or working conditions things got so hostile, that any reasonable person would quit.
More on constructive discharge >>
The Americans wit Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) protects employees and job seekers from wrongful discrimination due to a mental or physical disability.
The law states that reasonable accommodation must be given to disables employees in an effort to help them carry out their work.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should be mentioned here as well, which regulates the amount of unpaid leave an employee must be given in serious medical or family events.
More on disability discrimination at the workplace >>
While most employees in Alabama are at-will, many will have an employment contract. If the employer breaches the contract, the law is broken and a claim may be filed.
The employment contract may be written, oral or implied.
More on employment contract breaches >>
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits the discrimination of employees and job applicants based on their gender, as well as sexual harassment.
More on gender discrimination at the workplace >>
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) make the unfair treatment of pregnant women at the workplace illegal in the USA. If a pregnant woman cannot perform her duties, the ADA applies.
The FMLA also applies to pregnancy discrimination, since it grants a 12 week leave to new parents.
Public policy is the set of laws and moral principles that are present in our society.
Sometimes it is not in the interest of the employer to do everything according to normal public policy. Being retaliated against in violation of public policy happens when an employer makes adverse employment decisions based solely on the fact that an employee followed the law.
Alabama is one of few states that does NOT recognize the public policy exception to at-will employment.
More on retaliation in violation of public policy >>
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) makes it illegal to discriminate against or harass employees or applicants based on the color of their skin, their race, their nationality or sincerely held religious beliefs.
More on race, color, nationality, religion discrimination >>
The law defines protected activities, for which an employee cannot be retaliated against.
Retaliation against an employee may come in many forms: termination, demotion or transferring to a less desirable position, denial of promotion, denial of job benefits, suspension, threats or abuse (verbal or physical), negative, false evaluations or reports or treating family members negatively.
More on retaliation at work >>
Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 (Title VII) protects employees from discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.
More on discrimination at the workplace against the LGBTQ community >>
A whistleblower is an employee who exposes an employer for doing something in violation of something illegal.
Numerous laws protect whistleblowers from ill treatment at the workplace.
More on whistleblower cases >>
Terminating an employee in retaliation for complaining about missed wages, overtime or hour violations is illegal.
Alabama’s Worker’s Compensation Act forbids employers from firing workers because they filed a worker’s compensation claim due to an injury resulting from work.
Proving a wrongful termination claim in AL is the job of the employee. Sufficient evidence needs to be gathered to prove that the employer broke the law by firing (or not hiring) you.
Since there are many exceptions to the general “at-will” rule, an employee who was wrongfully terminated may be able to bring a claim under not just a single, but several federal, state or local laws.
Being an at-will employment state, Alabama law does not allow an employer to sue for wrongful termination simply because there was no reason for the termination.
However, there are laws that prohibit adverse action against employees through establishing groups with protected characteristics or protected conduct.
What constitutes adverse employee action?
The following laws protect employees from wrongful termination.
The USA federal government has passed numerous acts to protect employees from injustices. Here is a complete list of federal laws that prohibit wrongful termination.
Alabama has one state law that provides further protection, which is Alabama’s Worker’s Compensation Act. Based on this Act, it is illegal for an employer to fire, threaten to discharge or retaliate against an employee solely for seeking worker’s compensation.
You can turn to the following organizations if you feel you’ve been the victim of an adverse action at your workplace.
It is important you know that there are time limits to filing a wrongful termination claim. These time limits are set by the statute of limitations on wrongful termination cases in Alabama.
Taking a claim to court is generally the last option in wrongful termination cases. There are other means of settling the differences between the employer and employee, including mediation and arbitration. Your lawyer will work with you to negotiate a settlement that you are comfortable with.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the claim may be taken to court.
There are several types of wrongful termination damages available to plaintiffs, the measure of which will be determined by the court and jury.
Depending on the type of wrongful termination claim, some types of damages are not available and some are capped at a maximum amount.
Naturally, you might be curious as to what kind of settlements are reached.
Here is a listing of real wrongful termination cases and settlements from Alabama.
If you think you were terminated from your job illegally or were discriminated against when applying for a job, you might be able to file a wrongful termination claim.
First of all, you’ll want to talk with an employment lawyer familiar with Alabama law.
Navigating the ins and outs of the legal system is difficult, which is why you need an employment attorney experienced in wrongful termination cases. First time legal consultations are usually free, where the lawyer will review your case and offer an opinion on your claim.
Most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis (30-40%), which means their fee will be a percentage of any settlement or award you get for your case. You will still be responsible for paying the official expenses associated with filing you case.
Once you hire a lawyer, you will be advised on what documents you need to gather, the statute of limitations for filing your claim and how to commence with the case.
Your goal is for you and your lawyer to negotiate the best possible settlement or severance package. If a settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer will take your case to court.
Here is an outline on how to file a wrongful termination claim.
Even though employment-at-will is the prevailing form of employment in the USA, there are laws to protect employees against unjust discrimination and harassment.
WrongfulTerminationSettlements.com was created as a compass for people who feel they have been terminated wrongfully, or discriminated against at their workplace.