Washington State Wrongful Termination

by ECL Writer
Is Washington An At-Will State

Wrongful termination is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. In Washington State, employees are considered “at-will,” which means that they can be fired at any time and for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory or retaliatory. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and employees have certain rights that are protected by state and federal laws. This article Eastcoastlaws.com will provide an overview of Washington State Wrongful Termination laws, including what constitutes wrongful termination, the protected rights of employees, and the steps to take if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated. By understanding your rights as an employee, you can take steps to protect yourself and seek justice if you have been wrongfully terminated.

Understanding Washington State Wrongful Termination

Washington State Wrongful Termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for illegal reasons. Washington is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not illegal. However, there are several exceptions to this rule that protect employees from wrongful termination.

Under Washington law, employers cannot terminate employees based on their race, gender, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. If an employee is terminated for any of these reasons, they may have a case for wrongful termination.

Additionally, Washington has a public policy exception to at-will employment, which means that employers cannot terminate employees for reasons that violate public policy. This includes terminating employees who report illegal activity by the employer, who refuse to engage in illegal activity, or who take time off for family or medical reasons as protected by law. If an employee is terminated for any of these reasons, they may also have a case for wrongful termination.

It is important to note that employees who are terminated for lawful reasons, such as poor performance or misconduct, do not have a case for wrongful termination. 

Examples of Wrongful Termination in Washington state

Here are some examples of situations that may constitute wrongful termination in Washington State:

  • Discrimination: If an employee is fired based on their race, gender, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability, it may be considered discrimination and therefore wrongful termination.
  • Retaliation: If an employee is fired in retaliation for reporting illegal activity by the employer, refusing to engage in illegal activity, or participating in a protected activity such as filing a workers’ compensation claim, it may be considered wrongful termination.
  • Family and Medical Leave: If an employee is fired for taking time off for a family or medical leave as protected by law, it may be considered wrongful termination.
  • Breach of Contract: If an employee is fired in violation of an employment contract, it may be considered wrongful termination.
  • Whistleblower Protection: If an employee is fired for reporting illegal or unethical behavior by their employer to a government agency or law enforcement, it may be considered wrongful termination.

It is important to note that each case is unique and the circumstances surrounding each termination must be examined to determine if it is wrongful.

Termination in violation of anti-discrimination statutes in Washington State

Termination in violation of anti-discrimination statutes in Washington State is considered wrongful termination. Washington State law prohibits employers from terminating employees based on their race, gender, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. If an employee is terminated for any of these reasons, it may be considered discrimination and therefore wrongful termination.

In addition, Washington State law provides protections for employees who are victims of harassment or retaliation in the workplace. If an employee is terminated for reporting harassment or retaliation, it may be considered wrongful termination.

If an employee believes that they have been wrongfully terminated in violation of anti-discrimination statutes, they may file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An experienced employment lawyer can help guide the employee through the complaint process and represent them in any legal action that may be necessary.

If the employee is successful in their claim, they may be entitled to damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages. It is important to note that there are strict time limits for filing discrimination claims, so it is important to act quickly if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated in violation of anti-discrimination statutes in Washington State.

Termination in reprisal for participating in protected behavior in Washington

Termination in reprisal for participating in protected behavior in Washington is considered wrongful termination. Washington State has laws that protect employees who engage in certain protected activities, such as reporting illegal activity by their employer, refusing to engage in illegal activity, or participating in a protected activity such as filing a workers’ compensation claim.

If an employee is terminated for engaging in any of these protected activities, it may be considered retaliation and therefore wrongful termination. Additionally, Washington State law provides protections for employees who are victims of harassment or retaliation in the workplace. If an employee is terminated for reporting harassment or retaliation, it may also be considered wrongful termination.

If an employee believes that they have been wrongfully terminated in reprisal for participating in protected behavior, they may file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An experienced employment lawyer can help guide the employee through the complaint process and represent them in any legal action that may be necessary.

If the employee is successful in their claim, they may be entitled to damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive damages. It is important to note that there are strict time limits for filing retaliation claims, so it is important to act quickly if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated in reprisal for participating in protected behavior in Washington.

Termination in breach of an employment contract

Termination in breach of an employment contract in Washington is considered wrongful termination. An employment contract is a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee that sets out the terms and conditions of their employment. If an employer terminates an employee in violation of the terms of the employment contract, it may be considered wrongful termination.

Employment contracts may include provisions regarding the length of employment, grounds for termination, notice requirements, and severance pay. If an employer terminates an employee in violation of any of these provisions, it may be considered wrongful termination.

If an employee believes that they have been wrongfully terminated in breach of an employment contract, they may file a lawsuit against their employer. An experienced employment lawyer can help guide the employee through the legal process and represent them in court.

Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in Washington?

Yes, you can sue for wrongful termination in Washington state. Although Washington is an at-will employment state, meaning that either party to an employment relationship may terminate the relationship at any time and for any reason, there are certain statutory and common law reasons that may subject an employer to liability for terminating an employee. Some of the underlying causes of wrongful termination claims include breach of an employment contract, retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, retaliation for complaints regarding overtime and payment of wages, and violations of public policy. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from employment, you should contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for this type of case is three years in Washington, meaning that you have three years following your termination to contact an attorney and file your case with either the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Understanding At-Will Employment

Similar to many other states, Washington follows the at-will employment principle. This means that in Washington, most employees can be terminated at any time and for any reason, even without a reason. However, it’s crucial to note that there are significant exceptions to Washington’s at-will employment policy that safeguard employees from being fired due to their engagement in legally protected activities. These activities may encompass reporting unlawful conduct or participating in an inquiry into their employer’s practices.

How Can I Challenge The “At-Will” Employment Presumption in Washington?

In the state of Washington, the “at-will” employment doctrine presumes that either the employer or the employee has the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, unless there exists a contract or a specific law that states otherwise.

This means that, in cases of wrongful termination, an employer can lawfully terminate an employee without providing a reason, as long as the rationale isn’t discriminatory or otherwise illegal. However, if an employee can demonstrate that their dismissal was based on an unlawful reason or violated a contract, they may be able to challenge the at-will presumption and pursue a wrongful termination claim.

To challenge the at-will presumption in a wrongful termination lawsuit, an employee can present evidence showing that their termination was driven by illegal discrimination, retaliation, or a breach of contract. For instance, if an employee was fired immediately after reporting unlawful activities at their workplace or taking protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), they might have a valid wrongful termination claim based on retaliation.

Likewise, if an employee can prove that their termination violated the terms of an employment contract, such as a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract, they may have grounds to file a breach of contract lawsuit.

To navigate the complexities of wrongful termination in Washington, an employee may seek the assistance of a Seattle wrongful termination attorney. Such an attorney can help assess the strength of the employee’s claim, gather supporting evidence, represent the employee in court or administrative proceedings, and negotiate with the employer or their legal counsel.

Grounds for Wrongful Termination in Washington?

Wrongful termination in Washington can occur under various circumstances, including termination that contravenes anti-discrimination laws, termination as a reprisal for engaging in protected activities, and termination in violation of an employment contract. Here are a few examples of wrongful termination in the state:

  • Discrimination: It is illegal to terminate an employee based on factors such as their race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, or other protected characteristics. If an employee can demonstrate that their termination was motivated by discrimination related to one of these protected traits, they may have a basis for filing a wrongful termination claim.
  • Retaliation: It is unlawful to fire an employee in retaliation for engaging in protected actions, such as reporting unlawful activities in the workplace, lodging a complaint with a government agency, or taking leave protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If an employee can provide evidence that their termination was a response to their participation in one of these protected activities, they may be eligible to pursue a wrongful termination claim.
  • Violation of Employment Contract: If an employer dismisses an employee in violation of the terms outlined in their employment contract, which may include provisions from a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract, the employee may have a valid claim for both breach of contract and wrongful termination.

In Washington, these are some of the situations that can give rise to claims of wrongful termination.

What is the Average Wrongful Termination Settlement In Washington state?

The average wrongful termination settlement in Washington state varies depending on several factors, and there is no single “average” settlement amount. However, workers who succeed in a wrongful termination case tend to receive an amount of compensation between $5,000 and $100,000. The settlement amount depends on several factors, including the worker’s salary, job benefits, age, skillset, the conduct of the employer, and whether the employer damaged the worker’s reputation or future job prospects. Punitive damages are also a factor that can impact the settlement amount, but they are relatively infrequent. The average courtroom awards are generally higher, approximately $90,000 and $500,000. 

However, most cases settle for approximately $40,000 to a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It is important to note that each case is unique, and the settlement amount will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you should contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney to discuss your legal options

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