You go to work one day. You might think this is just a normal day, or you might suspect something is wrong. You get called into the boss’s office, or to Human Resources. You’re told, “I’m sorry, but we’re letting you go.” You might be told a reason why. You might just be told that, “the decision has been made,” without any explanation. You’re told to pack up your things.
You’re probably feeling strange. Maybe you’re relieved that it’s finally over, or to be leaving an employer who you feel mistreated you. Maybe you’re blindsided and heartbroken. You’re probably worried about how you’re going to pay your rent, or your mortgage. You’re probably trying to make a mental list of where you could apply next. You might be thinking, “What should I do now? Can I sue them? Should I sue them?”
This might be the time you consider calling an attorney.
In Colorado, employment is usually “at will,” which means you likely do not have a contract with your current (or former) employer. It generally means that you have the right to quit at any time, and your employer has the power to fire you at any time. It also means that your employer can treat you badly – even unfairly –for any reason at all, as long as that reason is not an illegal one.
For example, your employer can fire you for showing up to work late, interpersonal conflicts, or poor performance. Your employer can also fire you for liking the Yankees, wearing a red shirt, or for simply not liking you. It may not be “fair,” but the law does not protect you from unfair practices unless those practices are because you are in a protected class. This means you must have been discriminated against or harassed because of, among others, the color of your skin, your national origin, your disability, your sex/gender, or your religious beliefs.
Often, people ask why employees dealing with discrimination or harassment don’t just quit their jobs. The answer is actually quite simple: they shouldn’t have to. Our jobs are important – they can define who we are or how we see ourselves, they help us provide for our families, and they allow us to live with dignity. An employee should not be required to leave their position because they are being harassed. It is the employer’s responsibility under the law to provide their employees with a workplace that is free of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation for reporting any kind of harassment or discrimination.
If you have been terminated and are wondering if you have a wrongful termination case, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. Employment discrimination and harassment cases must be filed and investigated first through an agency – either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which is a federal agency, or the Colorado Civil Rights Division (“CCRD”), which is a state agency.
You cannot file an employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation lawsuit without an agency first investigating your claims. The “statute of limitations” – the time in which you have to file a lawsuit – changes depending on where you file your Charge of Discrimination. In the CCRD, the statute of limitations is only 180 days. In the EEOC, the statute of limitations is 300 days. The statute of limitations counts back to the last incident of harassment or discrimination – for example, if you were discriminated against two years ago (and no other circumstances exist), you will likely be unable to file with either the EEOC or the CCRD. However, if you have experienced harassment, discrimination, or retaliation for being in a protected class within 180 or 300 days, you will likely be able to file with the EEOC and CCRD and potentially file a lawsuit. These deadlines are especially important if you have been dealing with a difficult employer for a long period of time. Of course, other circumstances may exist, and if you believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment for being in a protected class, you should call a local attorney to be sure.
These deadlines may seem long, but this time can pass very quickly. Because of this, it is very important that you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A good employment lawyer will be able to advise you on the agency deadlines you might be dealing with and whether or not you may have a wrongful termination case.
Contact Ramos Law today. Our Denver employment lawyers serve clients who have been subject wrongful termination and other unfair and illegal employment practices.