In the employment context, employers generally hold the majority of the power and have the upper hand. This does not mean that employees do not have rights, but enforcing those rights sometimes requires a legal battle, as is often the case with wrongful termination. Although employers have a great deal of discretion in hiring and firing decisions, they can take actions that constitute discrimination or other forms of wrongful discharge and their allegations justifying the termination should be supported by evidence.
As reported in the Washington Post, Alan Lescht & Associates recently enjoyed a victory in connection with their representation of a senior executive in the General Services Administration. The client, James Weller, had been fired in 2012 for his participation and involvement in a conference that was later determined to be an example of extreme government waste. At issue in the case was the knowledge held by Weller with regard to the event's planning and funding. The administrative judge initially found for Weller on the grounds that Weller did not have adequate knowledge of the problematic aspects of the conference for his participation to constitute misconduct warranting termination. Although the General Services Administration appealed that ruling, the appeal board upheld the lower court's ruling on the grounds that the GSA did not provide any evidence to support its claims that Weller was guilty of misconduct.
Being fired, especially when one is a senior executive, is a devastating event. If the termination was a wrongful discharge, however, employees should not hesitate to avail themselves of the court and protect their rights through the legal process. Wrongful termination can occur in a variety of settings. Some of the most common include when an employee is unlawfully discriminated against or fired in retaliation for taking certain actions or "whistleblowing." As seen in the story above, wrongful termination can also occur when an employer alleges an employee's wrongdoing in situations where the employee is not at fault.
Although employees should not hesitate to defend their rights and hold employers accountable for wrongful discharge, employees should realize that these cases are complex and success hinges upon a clear understanding of the laws and their effective application to the situation at hand. Working with an experienced attorney can increase the chances of success and simplify the process for employees simply looking to return to work and be treated with respect.
Source: Washington Post, "GSA loses appeal in firings of top officials; appeals board orders them reinstated," Lisa Rein, Dec. 26, 2014