Wrongful termination laws are intended to act as parameters for employers to follow in terms of what is and is not considered lawful when terminating employees. Furthermore, wrongful termination laws help employees who feel they’ve been wrongfully terminated find out more about the validity of their claims and give them recourse for pursuing legal action, if warranted. The majority of modern wrongful termination laws are built around the “at-will employment” concept.
At-will Employment in Alabama
Like many U.S. states, Alabama employees are generally considered “at-will.” This means the employer/employee relationship is based on the free will of both parties, and it can also therefore be severed by either party at any time and for virtually any reason. There are, however, some noteworthy exceptions to the at-will employment notion in Alabama.
Wrongful Termination in Alabama
While Alabama is known as an at-will employment state, there are a number of important exceptions that are observed to prevent employers from taking advantage of certain types of workers. For example, Alabama’s employers cannot fire workers for reasons that are discriminatory in nature, such as an employee’s color, race, or country of origin. They also cannot lawfully terminate someone they feel is “out to get them,” i.e. someone who “blows the whistle” or files a claim about unsafe working conditions with a governing body. It’s essential that Alabama’s business owners come to fully understand these exceptions to avoid becoming the subject of a potentially costly wrongful termination lawsuit.
Breach of Contract: Alabama employees who are working under an existing employment contract, regardless whether it is oral, written or implied in nature, are no longer considered “at-will” employees. Therefore, they cannot be fired at any time and for any reason. An “implied” contract is one that may not be explicitly stated but is considered an agreement nonetheless. For example, if an employer states in an employee handbook that employees who achieve certain sales figures within a given time will remain in their positions and then doesn’t hold true to this agreement, that employer may be sued for wrongful termination. Breach of contract laws also, notably, apply to collective bargaining contracts within unions.
Discrimination: Alabama’s employees are protected at the federal level from being fired for reasons that are considered discriminatory. For example, employees cannot be fired because of race, color, country of origin, sex, pregnancy status, religious affiliation, citizenship status, genetics or disability. Additionally, Alabama’s employers cannot terminate employee relationships based on age if the employee is 40 or older. Additionally, Alabama employees are protected federally from being fired for retaliatory reasons, such as for filing a complaint about an employer. It is critical that Alabama’s employers come to understand what constitutes a discriminatory practice, because the vast majority of modern wrongful termination lawsuits allege discrimination to some extent.
Retaliation: Alabama’s employers are also not legally allowed to terminate employee relationships for reasons that may be viewed as retaliatory. For example, an employee who files a claim about sexual harassment, unsanitary working conditions or an employer’s refusal to pay overtime cannot be terminated for doing so. Similarly, an employer can’t fire someone who refuses to commit a crime or otherwise engage in illegal activity on the employer’s behalf.
Public Policy: Alabama is one of a number of states that recognizes what’s known as a “public policy” exception to the doctrine of at-will employment. This exception means Alabama’s employers cannot fire workers for reasons that contradict existing state public policies. For example, Alabama employees cannot be terminated for seeking workers’ compensation pay from their employers, because state public policy allows them to do so. They also can’t be terminated for refusing to commit crimes for an employer, because doing so would be considered an act in direct violation of Alabama public policy.
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.