Wrongful termination occurs when employers terminate their workers at a time or in a manner in which their workers are legally protected from termination. This could occur when an employer fails to abide by the terms of an employment contract, or if the employer retaliates against an employee after the employee files a harassment charge. It is vital that employers become well-versed in this area of law so they do not mistakenly make employment decisions that could lead to a lawsuit. One of the central tenets of these laws is the concept of at-will employment.
At-will Employment in Nebraska
Nebraska is an at-will employment state. This means employees can be dismissed for any reason at any time and without notice when an employment contract or other governing principle is not in effect. Employers can even fire their employees for no reason at all. Alternatively, workers can also leave a job without prior notice without fear of legal ramifications.
Wrongful Termination in Nebraska
There are some significant exceptions to at-will employment. Each exception is designed to prohibit employers from taking advantage of their employees in certain situations and grant workers protection against unjust or unfavorable actions due to their personal circumstances. Both federal law and the Nebraska Fair Employment Act address these issues. When companies break these laws, they may have to defend their actions in a lawsuit. If they fail to prove their actions were in compliance with the laws, they may be forced to pay the unlawfully terminated employee for the cost of the suit, punitive damages and any wages or benefits he or she would have earned had he or she not been terminated.
Breach of Contract: Like any other kind of contract created in Nebraska, if an employment contract is breached, the responsible party may face a lawsuit for the damages his or her actions caused. These employment contracts may indicate whether or not an employee is at-will, and therefore grant the employee protections against certain reasons for termination. Conversely, a contract may stipulate the only reasons for which the employee can lose his or her job. Whether a contract is written, oral or made as part of a collective bargaining agreement with a union, these laws may still apply.
Discrimination: Discrimination is one of the most common forms of wrongful termination. The state Fair Employment Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employers from basing any employment decisions on the gender, race, color, marital status, disability, pregnancy, ethnicity, religion, national origin or age of employees or prospective employees. Additionally, it is illegal for employers to treat these protected employees differently than other workers. Federal laws are also in place that offer the same protections.
Retaliation: When employers base employment decisions on an employee’s choice to assert her or his rights, it is known as retaliation. The same laws that prohibit discriminatory acts against certain employees also have strict guidelines on how employers must handle employees who make claims under these laws, or who seek to assert their legal rights in other ways. Nebraska law states that employers are prohibited from taking negative actions against an employee who files a complaint or testifies about his or her claim. Federal law also prohibits employers from retaliating when their employees engage in desirable, necessary or legally proper activities, such as taking part in union activities.
Public Policy: When employment actions violate a public interest, they are recognized by common law to be a public policy exception to at-will laws. This largely encompasses situations that society recognizes as illegitimate grounds for termination. Nebraska recognizes only limited public policy exceptions. Under the law, employers cannot discharge employees for any reasons that clearly violate a public policy mandate. What is deemed public policy is determined by whether or not a statute is in place either endorsing or prohibiting an action. For example, collecting workers compensation benefits and refusing to commit perjury are both covered under the public policy exception.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.