Most private sector, non-union employees are "employees at will."
That means that the employer can fire the employee without warning for
any reason it likes, unless the reason is illegal. "Wrongful termination"
is shorthand for "wrongful termination in violation of public policy."
A wrongful termination case is a claim that an employer has fired an employee
for an illegal reason not specifically prohibited by a statute or regulation.
A discharge is not "wrongful" or illegal just because the employer
has acted unfairly, fired a worker without giving a reason, or made a
Examples of wrongful discharge include terminating an employee because
she complained about or refused to participate in illegal actions such
as fraud or embezzlement in the workplace; discharging someone because
he performed a public duty such as serving on a jury; or dismissing a
worker because she exercised a legal right, such as taking leave to deal
with domestic violence.
In a wrongful termination case, the plaintiff must meet four elements:
Clarity: The plaintiff must prove the existence of a clear mandate of public policy.
Jeopardy: The plaintiff must prove that discouraging the conduct in which the employee
engaged would jeopardize the public policy.
Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the public-policy-linked conduct caused the
Absence of Justification: The defendant must not be able to offer an overriding justification for
In recent years, the Washington Supreme Court has made it much more difficult
for employees to bring wrongful termination claims. It is critical for
someone who believes he or she might have a wrongful termination claim
to consult with lawyers who know the latest legal developments in this
ever-changing area. At Frank Freed Subit & Thomas we provide our clients
with that knowledge and expertise.
Over the past 25 years we have handled many wrongful termination cases
for our clients. Frank Freed Subit & Thomas has litigated cutting-edge
wrongful discharge issues in the Washington Supreme Court. One of our
firm's attorneys wrote the book-chapter on wrongful discharge for
the Washington Association of Justice.