Many people mistakenly believe that their employer has to have a good reason to fire them. In reality, Colorado’s at-will employment laws permit employers to terminate their employees at any time for any legal reason or for no reason at all. Legal reasons to terminate an employee may include:
- Insubordination or failure to follow company policy
- Criminal activity at the workplace (e.g., theft)
- Poor performance or lack of productivity
However, some employers will attempt to cover up unlawful reasons for the termination of an employee by using a one of the above reasons as a pretext or false reason for the termination. Unlawful terminations may involve:
- Breach of contract – If the employee’s employment contract states that they can only be terminated for reasons listed in the contract, firing the employee for any other reason could be a breach of contract, and therefore, unlawful.
- Discrimination – Employers are not legally allowed to terminate an employee for discriminatory reasons. State and federal employment laws prohibit employers from terminating employees based on their age, gender, race, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics.
- Retaliation – Employees have a legal right to engage in protected activities, such as reporting harassment at the workplace, participating in EEO investigations, or requesting an accommodation for a disability. If an employer retaliates against an employee by terminating them for engaging in a protected activity, the termination will likely be deemed unlawful. Terminating an employee for engaging in whistleblowing, or reporting their employer’s illegal or unethical activities, is also unlawful.
If you think your employer may have terminated your employment illegally, an employment law attorney in your area can help you uncover the truth. If there is evidence that you were fired for unlawful reasons, you may file a wrongful termination claim against your employer to recover damages for the harmful effects of your termination.