It is common for employees to label their firing as “wrongful termination.” Under New Hampshire law, wrongful means more than unfair.
1) What counts as “wrongful termination”? “Wrongful Termination” is a term of art. Many terminations are “wrongful,” in the colloquial sense, meaning they are unfair, unjust, undue (no actual poor performance), or immoral. But “wrongful termination” in the legal sense has a very specific definition. Legally speaking, it’s not “wrongful termination” unless specific facts exist to meet specific criteria.
2) What are the specific criteria to support a “wrongful termination” claim? To support a legal action for “wrongful termination” the plaintiff employee must show: a) that she was terminated in “bad faith” (i.e. by a supervisor with an interfering, coercive, or retaliatory motive); and b) that the termination decision was made because the employee did something at work that is encouraged by public policy, or refused to do something at work that is discouraged by public policy.
3) What does “encouraged by public policy” mean? An employee takes an act encouraged by the public policy when her act is consistent with or advances a goal or objective of any law, rule, or policy created by and/or applicable to the public at large. An example might be to dispose of industrial waste in accordance with health and safety rules, over the objection of a supervisor.
4) What damages can a plaintiff recover for “wrongful termination?” An employee who can prove her termination was done in bad faith because she took an act encouraged by the public policy is eligible for tort damages. Simply put this is an amount of money ordered to be paid to the employee by the court, to compensate the employee for her lost wages and emotional losses caused by the termination.
If you have questions regarding a potentially “wrongful termination,” contact one of our employment attorneys at 1-800-240-1988 for a free initial consultation or fill out our online contact form.