Wrongful Termination Because of COVID-19?
The COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc in South Carolina. Although media attention has faded recently, many people continue to contract the virus and suffer terrible health effects.
At Surasky Law, our workers’ compensation attorney has worked closely with employees over the past 3 years to protect their rights during this unprecedented pandemic. If you were laid off due to the virus, then you might have the ability to sue for compensation. You might even get your job back. Contact us today to speak with our legal team.
An Overview of Wrongful Termination
South Carolina is an “at will” employment state. This means employers can lay off a worker for any valid reason at any time. Workers themselves can also quit when they want to. At-will employment is the norm for most employees.
However, this doesn’t give employers the right to let you go for any reason. The key is whether their reason was valid. Some illegal reasons that lead to a wrongful termination include:
Breaking an employment contract to lay you off
Laying you off for exercising a protected right
Terminating employment for reasons that are against public policy
Discriminating against an employee on the basis of a protected status, such as disability
When employers violate the law, the termination is wrongful. And employees should consult an attorney to determine whether they can sue.
Was Your Termination Wrongful?
We have seen many employees terminated wrongfully over the past few years for covid-related reasons. Consider the following common examples:
Termination for requesting Medical Leave. Most workers are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA. This law gives workers up to 12 weeks of leave to take care of serious medical conditions. The leave is unpaid, but your employer is required to give you the time off if you qualify. Some workers have been terminated for requesting FMLA leave to take care of themselves or a family member with COVID. This type of retaliation is unlawful.
Termination for complaints about workplace safety. To halt the spread of the virus, employers should have put in place sensible health regulations, like regular cleaning. Some workers have been terminated for airing complaints about the safety of their workplace. However, various laws protect against this type of retaliation, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Layoff for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you contracted COVID, you might be in so much pain you can’t work. If so, then you might qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for contracting an occupational illness. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for filing a workers’ comp claim.
Termination for requesting an accommodation. It is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of a disability, which includes refusing to make reasonable accommodations. For example, you might be immunocompromised, or you could have a disease like cancer which makes you especially vulnerable to COVID. Your employer should allow for certain accommodations, which might include requesting to wear a mask at work or being moved off front-line duty with the public. Another accommodation might be working temporarily from home, if you can really do that. An employer who refuses to grant a reasonable accommodation has broken the law.
Termination for following a shelter-in-place order. Many cities required that people stay home, especially early in the pandemic. If you follow this government order, you can’t be fired from your employer for a refusal to violate it. It is against public policy to require workers to break the law.
Layoff in violation of an employment contract. If you are one of the few workers in South Carolina on an employment contract, then your employer must follow this agreement before laying you off. Many contracts only justify termination for “cause.” Your employer can’t fire you for any reason; if they do, they have breached the contract.
Compensation for Wrongful Termination
Losing a job is a terrifying experience. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck as it is. Being laid off means that no more income is coming in the door. Meanwhile, your bills—including rent or mortgage—continue to come due each month. Helpfully, workers who are wrongfully terminated are entitled to compensation.
Every case is unique, but many of our clients have sought compensation for:
Not all terminated employees receive compensation for all of the above. Consult an experienced wrongful termination lawyer to identify how much you might qualify for.
Evidence in a Wrongful Termination Case
Schedule a consultation with Surasky Law to review whether you have a valid claim. Certain pieces of evidence are critical in cases like these. For example, if you have an employment contract, then we will want to see a copy. We can analyze it to determine your rights.
Other evidence includes any communication between you and your employer. Your employer might have sent emails, letters, voice mails, or handwritten notes. This documentation sometimes contains important information. If you requested medical leave or complained about job safety, we want to see those written requests.
We also would like to know if your employer has terminated other employees. For example, you might have been laid off for asking to work from home temporarily. If your employer gave other workers permission, then it shows he might be discriminating against you.
Call Surasky Law for Wrongful Termination Because of COVID-19 Today
Sadly, the COVID pandemic is not yet history. Additional surges are also possible, and countless people will struggle with symptoms. If you believe your employer terminated you wrongfully, we can help. We will review the facts of your case and help you identify the best steps to take. If the facts warrant it, we can file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer and seek full compensation. In other situations, we might file a discrimination charge on your behalf.
Call Surasky Law to speak with our Aiken, SC employment lawyer today or to schedule a complimentary consultation.