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How do I know if I was wrongfully terminated?

A Michigan company may fire a worker for almost any reason. Employers and workers can terminate their "at-will" relationships at any time. In most cases, an employee can quit or be fired for any or no reason.

Wrongful termination occurs when companies violate employment laws, contracts or their own internal policies. Employers must adhere to federal, state and local regulations, some of which are very similar. Generally, state and local laws are expansions of federal rules.

An employer may not discriminate against an employee belonging to a wide-ranging number of protected classes. Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on sex, race, age, disability, religion, national origin, pregnancy and color in hiring, employment or firing. In Michigan, additional protections are in place for discrimination due to weight, height, genetic information and an arrest record.

Discrimination is not the only reason an employer can be faulted for wrongful discharge. Employers can be accused of breaking employment contracts and violating company disciplinary and firing policies. A worker may not be terminated for refusing to take part in illegal business practices.

Employer violations also include withholding days off or benefits, when a worker has a legal right to them. A company may not retaliate against an employee who files an internal or external complaint about employment or safety violations.

Workers who aren't sure whether a claim is valid can speak with an employment attorney who can help direct claims to the appropriate parties or agencies. Generally, discrimination complaints must filter through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an equivalent state or local agency before any legal action is taken.

An attorney may be able to help a wronged employee recover damages for unlawful employer actions. In wrongful discharge claims, an employer may be ordered to compensate a worker for lost pay and sometimes even punitive damages.

Source: FindLaw, "Was I Wrongfully Discharged From My Job?," accessed Oct. 02, 2015

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