Even if you do not particularly enjoy your job, you probably do your work diligently because you depend on the income you earn to support yourself and your family members. Unfortunately, people lose their jobs, often with little warning, which can be devastating for the employee suddenly let go.
If your employer fired you with little notice, you may wonder if the termination was a violation of state or federal employment laws. What do you need to know when evaluating your recent termination to see if it was illegal?
Maine is an at-will state
The first thing you need to understand is that your employer can fire you at any time under state law without necessarily violating your rights. Your employer can let you go at any time without any consequences, and you can also leave your job without consequences.
The one exception is when your employment contract requires notice. State law does permit employers to include a requirement for one week’s notice when an employee wants to leave. The company can potentially penalize a worker for up to one week of wages if they fail to follow the rule when resigning. However, the company must adhere to the same standard of providing workers with one week’s notice prior to termination, or else they cannot enforce the penalty.
There are illegal reasons to terminate someone
While a company can let you go without notice and without justification, there are reasons to fire you that are a violation of your rights. Protected characteristics like your age, your race and your sex should not factor into decisions about whether to retain you or fire you.
Additionally, the company should not take punitive action against you after you assert your workplace rights, like trying to unionize with your coworkers or asking for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Finally, it is illegal for the company to retaliate against you when you act as a whistleblower or report discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
If the company fired you because of your personal characteristics or because you engaged in a protected activity, then their decision to fire you may be a wrongful termination. Learning more about the laws that protect you as an employee can help you stand up for yourself when your employer violates your rights.