When can you sue for wrongful dismissal?

In the United States, all states but Montana are considered at-will employment states. This basically means that an employer can terminate an employee with, or without justification.

However, there are laws that prohibit firing due to unjust reasons, and as such, limit the “at-will” nature of employment in the US.

If your employer broke an employment contract, a federal or a local law while firing you, you may have a valid case of wrongful termination. There are 4 main types of wrongful terminations claims:

  1. Discrimination claims – US law prohibits bringing employment decisions biased by discrimination. This means discrimination against certain protected characteristics cannot form the basis of an employer’s decision to hire, fire, promote, demote, etc.
  2. Retaliation claims – Employees have rights at the workplace, such as the right to take medical leave, jury duty, report discrimination, etc. An employer cannot fire employees for exercising their lawful rights.
  3. Violation of public policy claims – Public policy violation claims are similar to retaliation claims. They involve the termination of an employee for exercising a legal right or refusing to do something illegal.
  4. Contractual claims – If you are employed based on an employment contract, you and your employer have extra rights and obligations. If an employer fires an employee in violation of a contractual term, it may constitute wrongful termination.

If your employer broke an employment contract, a federal or a local law while firing you, you may have a valid case of wrongful termination.

Common Reasons for Wrongful Termination

Here are the main categories of cases where filing a wrongful termination claim may be valid.


Age discrimination

Age discrimination at the workplace involves treating employees or job applicants less favorably because of their age.

Details on age discrimination, cases, settlements >>


Constructive discharge

Constructive discharge occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment.

Details and examples of constructive discharge >>



Wrongful termination for having a disability, even though the employee could fulfill his/her duties, is illegal.

Details on wrongful termination due to disability >>


Employment contract

Wrongful dismissal occurs when a termination breaches one or more terms of a contract of employment.

Details on breach of employment contract cases >>



Being wrongfully terminated because of an employee’s sex is called termination due to gender discrimination.

Details on gender discrimination, settlements >>



It is not just immoral, but also illegal to terminate a woman for becoming pregnant. Pregnancy cannot be the cause of losing a job.

Details on termination due to pregnancy >>


Public policy

If an employee is fired due to exercising a legal right, or refusing to do something illegal, it is in violation of public policy.

Details on termination in violation of public policy >>


Race, color, nationality

Termination or workplace harassment due to an employee’s race, color, national origin, and also religion is illegal.

Details on race, color, nationality discrimination >>



Retaliatory discharge occurs when an employee is terminated because of reporting some wrongful conduct of the employer.

Details on wrongful termination due to retaliation >>


Sexual orientation

Being discriminated against for gender expression/identity, or sexual orientation is illegal.

Details on sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace >>



Whistleblowing is when an employee reports illegal conduct that is not related to workplace rights.

Details on whistleblowing retaliation >>

Clicking on any of the above links will take you to a detailed description of the given type of wrongful dismissal and example cases.

Time limits for filing a claim

Remember that there are time constraints to filing a claim. If you run out of time, you will not be able to enforce your rights in court.

How much time do you have to file the claim after being fired? Between 2 to 10 years, depending on the type of claim and the state you are filing in.

You can check your state’s statute of limitations here.