It can be a nightmare for any company when a recently terminated employee serves them with notice of their intent to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against them. If this happens to your company, knowing the allegations that the lawsuit is likely to be based on can help you to prepare.
Your employee’s likely allegations
If you know that your employee is preparing to bring a discrimination lawsuit against you for wrongful termination, there are a few allegations that their suit is likely to depend on.
There are both federal laws and Illinois state laws that prohibit employers from terminating their employees for improper reasons. Some of the reasons for which it is against the law to fire an employee include:
- Race and national origin
- Age (if above 40 years old)
Thus, the crux of your ex-employee’s argument is likely to be that one of these categories was your main justification for deciding to terminate them.
How to protect yourself
Your attorney’s principal job in responding to these allegations is to prove that your company’s decision to fire the employee was based on permissible reasoning.
Most employment contracts are at-will, meaning that employees can be fired for any legal reason or none at all. Even if your employment contracts are not at-will, your attorney can still try to prove that your decision to fire was based on a reason other than the ones prohibited by law. You can demonstrate that you let them go for a reason that would have justified you firing any employee, regardless of their characteristics.
The best thing you can do to prepare for this litigation is to document everything you can surrounding the employee’s termination. Keep all employee communications, time sheets, progress reports and minutes on meetings that you can use in court to demonstrate your true motive for letting the employee go.
A legal battle against a former employee can be costly and time-consuming, whether you end up settling or the case continues to trial. With the right documentation, hopefully your attorney will be able to demonstrate that your decision to terminate this employee was not based on reasons prohibited by law.