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The Difference Between Illegal Termination and Termination That is Not Illegal

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2022 | Firm News

There are a lot of reasons that someone could lose their job. Perhaps the company was downsizing, or you got in a fight with your boss, or because your boss feels your performance was not sufficient, even if you disagree with his assessment. In general, most reasons for termination are not illegal, even if you do not agree with the decision or think it is unfair. A termination is only considered to be wrongful if the true motives for the termination were illegal under the law.

This is because Illinois is an “at-will” state. That means that both the employer and employee can end the working relationship for virtually any reason they want, or for no good reason at all. Even unfair terminations are not necessarily illegal. Showing favoritism to the boss’ son, for example, maybe unfair, but it is not illegal.

An illegal wrongful termination, on the other hand, is illegal. In that type of situation, you may have legal options to get your job back or get the wages that you would have received if you had not been terminated.

What Is an Illegal Wrongful Termination?

The most common example of an illegal wrongful termination is when the employer’s real motive for terminating you was based on illegal discrimination or illegal retaliation. An employer cannot fire you for reasons based on your membership in a protected class.

Protected classes in Illinois include:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Citizenship status
  • Ancestry
  • Age (for those 40 and over)
  • Marital status
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Military status
  • Arrest record
  • Sexual orientation

In addition to discriminatory wrongful termination, a wrongful termination case might arise in a few other limited circumstances as well.

Breach of Contract

If you have an employment agreement that limits the employer’s ability to terminate you unless there is “cause” or “just cause” for termination, then you have the right to file a lawsuit for breach of the agreement if you can prove there was no just cause for the termination. You can request damages for that breach of the agreement.

Wrongful termination and unfair termination are not the same things. If you have been terminated and want to learn more about your legal rights, contact our team: 312-332-6733