Detroit Wrongful Termination Lawyers

An unexpected job loss can cause significant personal, financial, and familial challenges. Employers who violate an employee’s rights may be liable under Michigan’s wrongful termination laws. If you have experienced a wrongful termination or similar adverse event, consult a Detroit wrongful termination attorney to discuss your rights and remedies.

At Sommers Schwartz, P.C., our Detroit employment law attorneys are fierce advocates for workers whose employers treat them illegally or wrongfully. Our lawyers understand the emotions and challenges you may experience after a wrongful termination, especially if you’ve had years of hard work, reliable performance, and positive feedback.

The attorneys at our firm have a comprehensive understanding of how local, state, and federal laws govern Detroit wrongful discharge cases. We use our experience, skills, and relationships to represent and advocate for our clients and secure relief under these laws.

What Is a Wrongful Termination Claim?

Wrongful termination and wrongful discharge refer to any illegal firing of an employee. While many actions may seem unwarranted, unreasonable, and unfair, that does not necessarily mean the employer’s conduct was “wrongful.” To succeed on a wrongful termination claim, a plaintiff must prove their employer violated a local, state, or federal law.

At-Will Employment in Detroit, Michigan

Like all other states except Montana, Michigan is an “at-will” employment state. At-will employment means that, in most situations, an employer can terminate an employee for almost any reason other than those expressly prohibited by law or contract. Employers generally do not have to give an employee advance notice or pay any compensation, benefits, or severance after termination.

Conversely, most Michigan employees can quit a position for any reason, at any time, without notice or obligation. However, at-will employment is fundamentally an employer-friendly concept. A worker who believes they were wrongfully terminated bears the burden of proving their case against an often powerful, well-funded employer. A Detroit wrongful termination attorney can assist workers in sifting through facts, gathering evidence, and deciding how to proceed.

Wrongful Termination Claims in Michigan

Despite employer-friendly at-will employment laws, most states recognize several exceptions to the rule. Michigan recognizes several such situations where an employee may bring a claim for wrongful termination, including:

Breach of Contract: In Michigan, both oral and written contracts are binding and override the default at-will employment laws. Detroit employers must follow the terms of an employee’s contract when disciplining, terminating, or otherwise taking action against the employee. Similarly, employees must comply with the contract’s provisions when leaving their positions. Employees may have a personal contract with their employer or be subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated by a union for all employees in a workplace.

Discrimination: An overwhelming number of wrongful termination claims involve allegations of discrimination. Federal and state laws prohibit certain types of discrimination in the workplace and hiring process. Generally, Michigan employers cannot terminate, refuse to hire, or take adverse employment action against an employee based on the employee’s color, race, religion, weight, disability, marital status, or pregnancy. Employers also may not discriminate against or terminate an employee based on their request for or use of family and medical leave rights.

Retaliation: Employees have the right to speak out against an employer’s illegal practices. The law prohibits retaliation against employees who report or “blow the whistle” on unfair treatment at work, report an employer’s wrongful conduct, take leave under the FMLA, or assist with an investigation or proceeding against their employer.

Public Policy: In Michigan, employers may not terminate employees for reasons against “public policy.” In effect, the state prohibits conduct society would consider “unjust” or “unlawful.” Although the law requires courts to use objective standards to determine whether an action violates public policy, these cases are very fact-intensive. You need an experienced attorney who can make legally sound and compelling arguments for liability to succeed in this type of action.

You should consult a Detroit employment attorney if an employer’s actions or conduct suggest unlawful termination. An attorney can help you understand your rights and effectively prepare your case to anticipate your employer’s defenses.

Defenses to Wrongful Termination Claims

Employers may mischaracterize an employee’s performance, make decisions based on untrue perceptions, or make false allegations against the former employee to escape liability. Even when a worker establishes facts proving their termination was wrongful, the employer may overcome liability by providing a lawful reason for the termination. If the employer can establish a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the firing, the employee must then prove that the employer’s proffered explanation is merely a pretext or excuse for wrongful termination.

Overcoming Employer’s Pretextual Reasons for Wrongful Termination

Every wrongful discrimination case must be viewed in the totality of the circumstances. Evidence to establish that the reasons an employer gives are merely a pretext will vary depending on a case’s unique circumstances. Types of evidence that may support the finding that an employer’s reasons are pretextual include:

Inaccurate Statements by an Employer. Sometimes, a jury may view conflicting or erroneous employer statements as circumstantial evidence of pretext.

Lack of Documentation. A judge or jury may infer a pretext when an employer fails to provide documentary evidence of the purported reason for termination. For example, in a case alleging a pattern of deficient job performance as the legitimate reason for termination, no documentation of the alleged deficiency would be a reason to question the employer’s claim.

Rushed Paper Trail. Sometimes, evidence that an employer created warnings or falsified documents after terminating an employee may establish that the alleged justification is pretextual.

In addition, direct evidence of discriminatory comments may serve as proof of pretext. This evidence must be related to the class of persons of which the worker is a member, proximate in time to the termination, made by a party with authority over the employment action at issue, and related to the relevant employment decision at issue.

Indirect evidence of discriminatory comments may serve as probative circumstantial evidence. In these cases, the evidence must show discriminatory animus (intent) from the person responsible for the challenged conduct.

Additionally, suspicious circumstances, an employer’s failure to follow company policies, and an employer’s shifting explanations may establish that a worker’s termination was actually based on an illegal purpose rather than the purported legal basis.

Employers often retain a team of skilled attorneys to avoid liability for a wrongful termination claim. It is crucial for an employee making such a claim to retain an experienced attorney to fight for their rights and recover compensation for their damages.

Remedies Available in a Detroit Wrongful Termination Claim

Damages available in a Michigan wrongful termination claim depend on the forum (federal or state court) and the type of claim. In most cases, damages consist mainly of the difference between the employee’s earnings before and after the wrongful termination. They may be entitled to “back pay,” referring to the compensation they would have earned had they retained their position. They may also be entitled to “front pay,” which is the difference between the employee’s pay rate at their old job and what they earn in a new position.

In addition to back pay and front pay, an employer may be liable for the following:

  • The value of lost fringe benefits, such as vacation pay, health care costs, and retirement contributions.
  • Expenses the employee incurred looking for new employment.
  • Compensation for emotional distress, damage to reputation, and humiliation.
  • Litigation expenses and attorney’s fees.

Employers may try and reduce the compensation they owe by arguing that the employee failed to mitigate their damages or claiming that an employee rejected offers of reinstatement. An attorney can help refute these arguments and secure the best compensation available under the law.

Duration of Wrongful Termination Damage Payments

Michigan courts look at various factors when considering the amount and duration of a front-pay award. Some factors include:

  • Availability of employment opportunities.
  • A worker’s reasonable efforts to secure employment.
  • The employee’s work and life expectancy.

In most cases, the court requires expert testimony to establish the appropriate duration and amount of front-pay damages.

If Your Termination Was Wrongful, Call Us Today

If you believe you were fired for reasons prohibited by law or contract, call the experienced employment attorneys at Sommers Schwartz. Our legal team provides clients with individual attention and personalized case strategies. We have extensive hands-on experience advising and representing clients on wrongful termination and other employment matters.

While we are skilled negotiators and can often resolve cases well before trial, when an employer is unwilling to settle a case fairly, we put our years of litigation experience to work. Please contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn how we can help. Contact the Detroit wrongful termination lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C. by calling 800-783-0989 or using our secure online contact form.

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