Can I sue my employer for firing me under false accusations? Some wrongful termination cases take place as a result of false accusations. And it’s usually either a coworker or an employer making false accusations against you, which subsequently gets you fired.
Your employer can manufacture a reason to fire you, leaving you feeling isolated and uncertain. Fortunately, you have legal recourse to fight the accusations and retain the job. Even in at-will employment laws that allow employers to fire for any or no reason at all, with or without notice, you can have your employer sued for false accusations—wrongful termination and defamation.
Can I sue my employer for firing me under false accusations?
You can sue your employer for firing you under false accusations for wrongful termination or defamation. If an employer or employee makes a false accusation against you, this should typically escalate to a formal investigation within the organization. Employers can uphold specific policies meant to address the situation, which can result in getting fired.
Although it can be difficult to determine how to handle a false accusation hurting your reputation and jeopardizing your employment, the first thing to do is to gather as much evidence as possible about the situation.
Talk to your coworkers to see if they’re willing to provide any statements that include what they heard along with other information pertinent to the allegation. Ensure to record the times and dates as well.
What to do?
a. Sue for wrongful termination
Usually, you gave grounds for a wrongful termination claim if an employer fires you under false accusations from a coworker. You could also have additional legal recourse against the employee responsible for the false accusation if you suffer reputational damage and lost income.
Winning a wrongful termination claim with an EEOC complaint may not fix the damage done to your reputation though.
Get an experienced employment attorney to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if you have been wrongfully terminated under false accusations by an employee or coworker.
EEOC investigates discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination claims in workplaces. Your claim will be evaluated to determine if you were illegally fired by your employer. If the EEPC determines a reasonable cause for your claim, you will be issued a Notice of Right to Sue, which lets you proceed with a civil action against your employer with the EEOC’s backing.
If the wrongful termination claim is successful, it can secure your reinstatement, as well as other benefits, including compensation for lost income and benefits. In some cases, you may qualify to claim compensation for the employer’s intentional infliction of emotional distress.
b. File a defamation lawsuit
If you’re not guilty of the accusations, you may have a cause for defamation. When you sue for defamation, you don’t have to prove that the accusation is false. Thus, the employer is responsible for proving the truth of their accusation.
Defamation means to harm the reputation of another person through false accusations. A coworker or an employer who has made false accusations against you that harms your reputation and causes economic losses, such as getting fired has defamed you. Thus, you likely have grounds for a defamation lawsuit.
In most states, defamation is not a crime but a tort, Nolo. It qualifies for civil damages and your employer must prove the truth of the allegations.
However, it’s important to weigh your legal options if you believe you have grounds for a defamation lawsuit. For some people, it’s not worth filing a defamation lawsuit since proving damages is more complex than most claimants realize. However, defamation related to wrongful termination gives you more evidence than you think.
What to know in an at-will employment state
Like Washington and California, most other states enforce an at-will employment statute, which provides flexibility to both employers and employees on hiring and firing.
For instance, if you work “at will”, you can terminate your working relationship with your employer at any time, for any or no reason at all. At-will does not also obligate you to provide advance notice.
Read also: is a bad landlord reference suable?
In the same manner, an employer can fire you “at will” at any time. However, your employer can’t fire you:
- for any illegal reason such as discrimination,
- if you have specific work contracts, or
- are otherwise exempt from the at-will employment statute.
If your employer finds out that a coworker made a false accusation against you, they have grounds to fire the coworker for false accusation and disruption of the workplace. However, if your employer can’t determine whether an accusation is valid or not, they can fire either or both of the employees.
An employer is not under any legal obligation to investigate most workplace accusations. Thus, if your employer fired you without determining the truth of the accusation, it is technically legal in at-will employment law. However, if your employer uses the false accusation to cover up an illegal reason for firing you, it is wrongful termination.
In essence, your employer can fire you for a false accusation and it would be legal. Unfortunately, this may be offensive to your sense of fairness, especially if your employer fired you without investigating the false accusation or simply took another employee’s word over yours.
If you believe that your employer fired you illegally under false accusation as a pretext, you may have a wrongful termination case against them.
How can I prove wrongful termination?
To file a wrongful termination claim, you need to prove that the employer’s reason for your firing is false. To prove wrongful termination, you need to gather evidence to prove that the employer could fabricate a reason to fire you. Your employer can cite false allegations from other parties to justify your firing, and you also must be able to prove that the accusations are false to make your termination wrongful.
How do I sue a company for false accusations?
If your employer fires after making a false accusation against you, you have the right to file a civil claim against them. You may likely begin this process with an EEOC claim. Ensure to consult your local employment attorney for your best legal options to repair your harmed reputation and livelihood.
You’ve just lost your job due to false accusations, which makes you feel isolated and hopeless. And although the legal mechanisms you could use to appropriately address the matter are a bit challenging, you can still exercise your rights and defend yourself.
Make sure to contact your local employment attorney with years of experience handling wrongful termination cases and other employment law-related issues to try to reinstate not just your job and compensation but also your lost income and benefits, as well as fix your damaged reputation.