One of the most common questions posed to Wilson Law Group is “Can I be fired for that?”
The answer is almost always, “It depends.” As an employee in Minnesota, your employment is likely “at will.” This means that, subject to certain exceptions discussed below, your employer can fire you for nearly any reason. This ability to fire creates a power imbalance between you and your employer. It is imperative, therefore, that you understand the law and your rights and, if necessary, retain aggressive legal representation.
Your employment in Minnesota is likely “at will.” The law presumes that you are an “at will” employee and that you can, therefore, be fired for almost any reason. The presumption will not apply, however, if you can prove that you and your employer agreed that your employment would not be “at will.” For instance, you may have a contract with your employer that controls how and when you can be fired. Or, you may be a member of a union with a collective bargaining agreement.
Unfortunately, most employees do not have an employment contract or are not represented by a union. But, even “at will” employees have legal rights and are protected from being fired for an unlawful reason. Generally, unlawful reasons for firing can be grouped into three broad categories: (1) termination based on discrimination; (2) termination based on retaliation; and (3) termination because of absences for protected life and civic events.
First, an employer may not terminate your employment because of your race, color, creed, religion, national original, sex, marital status, disability, your receipt of public assistance, age, sexual orientation, familial status, or local human rights commission activity. For example, it would be unlawful for your employer to fire you because you became pregnant. Likewise, you cannot be fired because you are black, gay, too old, or from a different country.
Second, an employer may not retaliate against you because you reported unfair, unsafe, or illegal working conditions or because you reported discrimination, harassment, safety or health violations, unlawful pay practices, or other violations of law. An employer may not force you to engage in illegal activity and may not punish you because of your refusal. Similarly, an employer may not retaliate against you because you were hurt at work and applied for workers’ compensation benefits.
Finally, you may be entitled to protection if you miss work for specific life or civic events. Unlike the first two categories, which typically apply to all employees and employers, the protections afforded in this third category often apply only to a limited group of employees and employers, such as employees who have worked for their employer for more than 12 months. The largest events in this category include medical leave, pregnancy or adoption leave, or military leave. You may also be protected if you take time off work to vote, serve on a jury, attend your child’s school conference, or donate organs or bone marrow or because you were the victim of domestic abuse or other violent crimes.
If you have recently been fired from your employment, you are entitled to a written explanation from your former employer. You must make this demand in writing within 15 working days of your termination and your former employer must respond within 10 working days after receiving your written demand. Your employer may likewise be obligated to pay you all wages that you are owed within 24 hours of your written demand.
The law and how it applies to you is complex and confusing. If you believe you have been fired from your job for an unlawful reason, contract Wilson Law Group for a free consultation.