Wrongful termination claims arise when employees are fired in violation of federal or Colorado employment law. Colorado is an at-will employment state; however, federal and Colorado law include several exceptions to the at-will doctrine. When an employer fires an employee is fired for one of these exceptions, the discharge could constitute a wrongful termination. If your employer fired you and you believe your employer wrongfully terminated you then you should contact a Denver wrongful termination lawyer right away.
A termination might be “wrong” because it is unfair, unreasonable or based on bad information. However, a wrongful termination lawsuit may only follow if Colorado or federal employment law created a remedy for that particular type of wrongful termination. Otherwise, the fired employee’s avenue for relief is to file for unemployment benefits. If you believe you suffered an unlawful form of wrongful termination then you should talk to a Denver wrongful termination lawyer. Wrongful termination lawyers in Denver, who are employment lawyers, have experience analyzing and fighting for employees in wrongful termination lawsuits.
Table of Contents
- Reasons for wrongful termination claims in Colorado
- Wrongful termination and violations of public policy
- Wrongful termination and employment discrimination
- Wrongful termination and retaliation
- Wrongful termination and breach of contract
- Lawyers for wrongful termination
Reasons for wrongful termination claims in Colorado
Wrongful termination has a specific meaning as a legal term under Colorado and federal law. Claims for wrongful termination or wrongful discharge, only exist because a statute, contract, or public policy exception allows an employee to recover. Colorado employees fall under at-will employment. At-will employment means the employment relationship exists at the will of both parties for it to continue. Either party can end the relationship at any time–unless Colorado or federal law says otherwise. This is where we find wrongful termination claims.
If federal or Colorado employment law has not created an exception to the at-will doctrine for the reason an employee was fired then the employer is free to fire the employee for that reason. That is true even if it is an unfair or bad reason to fire an employee. The employer can even avoid a wrongful termination claim if it relies on bad information or reaches the wrong conclusion. The legal question is only whether the employer’s motivation was prohibited by law or contract. (An employee might have a claim for unemployment benefits even if a claim for wrongful termination is not viable.)
Wrongful termination lawyers in Denver, Colorado help clients with wrongful termination claims. Wrongful termination claims arise under several circumstances, including:
- An employer fired an employee due to discrimination based on age, race, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sex, disability, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, or gender.
- The employer fired the employee in retaliation for whistleblowing, reporting illegal or unethical behavior within the company, filing a worker’s compensation claim, requesting FMLA leave, or other leave of absence protected by law.
- The employer discharged the employee for refusing to break a law or opposed illegal practices in the company.
- An employer discharged the employee for exercising a legal right or obligation like voting or satisfying jury duty.
Wrongful Termination: Violation of Public Policy in Colorado
Colorado employees terminated by their employers in violation of public policy may have wrongful termination claims under Colorado law. Wrongful termination claims for violations of public policy include several types of wrongful terminations under various federal and Colorado statutes in addition to Colorado common law. An employee with a wrongful termination claim for violation of public policy may recover lost wages plus a variety of other damages. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated then you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer in Colorado right away.
Violations of Public Policy in Colorado
Public policy is the underlying set of principles upon which a government is based. Actions that violate public policy are generally those that are illegal, dangerous, or undermine important rights. Wrongful termination claims for violations of public policy protect employees from becoming instruments of social harm either to themselves or to other members of society.
These claims arise when the employer acts against the employee in violation of public policy, prohibits the employee from exercising an important right or public duty, or the employer required the employee to endanger the public welfare.
Common examples include:
- The employer directed the employee to perform illegal acts as part of the employee’s job duties;
- The employer prohibited the employer from exercising a legal right related to the employee’s job;
- An employer prohibited the employee from performing a public duty (like voting or appearing in court under a summons);
- The employer instructed the employee to perform tasks that endanger the public welfare.
An employer wrongfully terminates an employee in violation of Colorado public policy when the employer terminates the employee because:
- The employee refused to engage in an illegal or dangerous activity; or
- The employee tried to exercise a legal right or public duty and the employer terminated the employee in retaliation; or
- The employer terminated the employee to prevent the employee from exercising a legal right or public duty.
Lawsuits for wrongful termination in Colorado in violation of public policy
Employees may bring claims for wrongful termination in Colorado through a lawsuit in most cases. The elements of a wrongful termination claim for violating public policy in Denver and other parts of Colorado include:
- The defendant employer employed the plaintiff as an employee.
- The employer terminated the plaintiff’s employment.
- The termination was motivated by a reason against public policy.
In some cases an employee, or the employee’s wrongful termination lawyer, must take specific actions before filing a lawsuit. This is especially true for wrongful discharge claims under employment laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Most employment discrimination lawsuits first require an employee file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Colorado Civil Rights Division. If an employee must file an administrative complaint, it will be a statutory requirement of the specific statute creating the employee’s claim.
Wrongful termination lawyers in Colorado for public policy violations
Employment lawyers help clients recover for wrongful termination claims in Colorado. These claims are complicated. Multiple procedures may be required before the wrongful dismissal claim makes it to a trial, arbitration, or settlement. Colorado wrongful termination lawyers help clients maneuver these claims in state court, federal court and other venues. If you believe you have a wrongful termination claim in violation of public policy then you should contact Denver employment lawyers right away to discuss your case.
Wrongful Termination for Discrimination in Colorado
Colorado employers may not terminate an employee on the basis of a trait protected by federal or Colorado employment law or in retaliation for complaining about unlawful discrimination in the workplace. An employer who fires an employee under these conditions may create a claim for wrongful termination. Employees who suffer a wrongful termination or wrongful discharge on the basis of unlawful discrimination have remedies against the employer. If this sounds like something that happened to you then you should speak with wrongful termination lawyers in Colorado right away.
Unlawful employment discrimination causing wrongful termination
Federal and Colorado employment law prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of several characteristics or traits. These include:
- National Origin
- Sexual orientation
It is illegal for an employer to dismiss an employee because of any of these characteristics or traits. (Except for a bona fide occupational qualification.) An employee wrongfully terminated on an unlawful discriminatory basis can recover damages, including attorney fees, from the employer. If you believe you have this type of wrongful termination claim then you should contact Denver employment lawyers right away. These claims require you to pursue specific steps within limited time periods.
Wrongful termination and retaliation for complaining about discrimination in Colorado
Often unlawful forms of employment discrimination do not result in a wrongful dismissal but some lesser adverse employment action. An employee has a protected right to oppose illegal employment discrimination. The employee may oppose discrimination by complaining informally to the employer, filing a formal complaint, filing a complaint with the EEOC or CCRD, or filing a lawsuit. An employer who retaliates against the employee for opposing discrimination creates a claim for retaliation.
A retaliation claim is an independent claim, even if the underlying discrimination complaint fails. An employer might retaliate by a:
- Wrongful termination
- Pay cut
- Harassing the employee/creating a hostile work environment
- Changing the employee’s job duties to less prestigious duties
- Removing career advancement opportunities
A wrongful termination claim for retaliation follows the same procedure as other employment discrimination claims. The employee must file a charge of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Division or EEOC for retaliation. When the employee receives a right to sue letter then he or she may file a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Wrongful termination lawsuits in Denver, Colorado
Employees pursuing wrongful termination lawsuits in Colorado for retaliation caused by opposing discrimination in the workplace must begin in most cases by filing a complaint with the EEOC or CCRD. Once the former employee receives the right to sue letter there is a limited time period to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit in Colorado or federal court.
If the plaintiff does not have an employment attorney then the employee needs to pursue representation immediately. If the employee fails to file suit within the designated time period then the wrongful termination claim expires. An employment law attorney in Colorado can prepare the claim and pursue it on behalf of the plaintiff.
Employment law attorneys for wrongful termination claims in Colorado
If you lost your job because you complained about discrimination in your workplace or otherwise opposed discrimination at work then you should contact wrongful termination lawyers right away. Wrongful termination claims for discrimination require you to follow specific procedures and each step not correctly completed may weaken or defeat your claim. Wrongful termination lawyers understand this process and how to protect your claims.
Wrongful Termination in Retaliation within Colorado
Wrongful termination of employment can be the result of a Colorado employer retaliating against an employee for complaining about unlawful activity in the workplace or for exercising a legal right related to the job. Retaliation as an unlawful employment practice is a growing problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s research on complaints related to employment discrimination found retaliation complaints exceeded all other types of discrimination. If you believe your employer terminated you in retaliation for complaining about unlawful activity or exercising a legal right at work then you should contact wrongful termination lawyers in Colorado about your wrongful termination claims.
What is retaliation under employment law?
Retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee engaging in a protected activity. Protected activities include:
- Complaining about unlawful activity at work like employment discrimination, hostile work environment, wrongful denial of FMLA leave, failure to pay overtime; or
- Exercising a legal right at work like requesting FMLA leave or voting for union representation at work.
An employer may retaliate against the employee in a number of ways. A wrongful termination in retaliation is the most severe but a Colorado employer may retaliate less severe than a wrongful discharge. These include:
- Creating a hostile work environment/harassment
- Demoting the employee or denying a promotion
- Cutting the employee’s pay, raises, commissions, or bonuses
- Assigning less favorable job assignments
- Transferring the employee to a lesser work position (like moving the employee to an isolated work location).
If your employer wrongfully terminated you or took other action against you and your job in retaliation then you should contact Denver employment attorneys to discuss your potential claims.
Laws prohibiting wrongful termination and other retaliation
Many Colorado and federal labor and employment laws prohibit employers from firing employees in retaliation for protected activities. Employees who believe they were fired in violation of these laws should contact an employment law attorney right away. Many labor and employment statutes require employees to act quickly on specific steps to protect their claims. Some of these laws include the following:
Complaining about employment discrimination
An employer may not dismiss or otherwise retaliate against an employee for complaining about employment discrimination. It is a protected activity to file an internal complaint of employment discrimination, file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or CCRD, file a lawsuit for employment discrimination, or participate in an investigation or proceeding of an employment discrimination complaint. An employee may file a retaliation claim with the EEOC regardless of whether the employee was the target of the underlying discrimination. An employee may not be the original target of the discrimination but suffer a retaliatory wrongful termination for complaining about discrimination towards a coworker or participating in an investigation of a complaint by another employee.
Retaliation for participating in an employment discrimination complaint or proceeding is prohibited by federal and Colorado employment law. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (Co. Rev. Stat. 24-34-402) protects employees under state law. Applicable federal laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and others.
Unpaid wages, overtime pay, minimum wage complaints
A combination of federal and Colorado employment laws prohibit employers from wrongfully terminating an employee for complaining about wage-related claims including:
- Not receiving minimum wage for nonexempt employees
- Not receiving overtime pay for nonexempt employees
- Tip pool violations
- Failure to pay wages
- Failure to pay wages on time
Medical leave of absence
An employer may not retaliate against an employee who requests or takes a medical leave of absence protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Colorado Family Care Act. An employer may wrongfully terminate an employee:
- Before the employee requests FMLA or CFCA leave knowing the employee will request it
- After the employee requests medical leave
- While the employee is on leave
- After the employee returns from medical leave
Participating in a union or union election
Federal and Colorado labor law protect the right of employees to organize together to improve the terms of employment. Employees may choose to organize in a formal union or informally at work. An employer creates a claim for wrongful termination by discharging the employee for discussing unionization, participating in a union election, participating in a union, or working informally with coworkers to improve the job.
Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Colorado
Workers with wrongful termination claims may need to complete specific steps before pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Colorado. Some statutes require an employee to file an administrative complaint or notify the employer of the wrongful conduct before filing a lawsuit. An employee may also have a wrongful termination claim under Colorado common law in addition to statutory remedies.
Wrongful termination in breach of an employment contract
Colorado employees may have a viable wrongful termination claim from breach of an express or implied contract.
An express contract is a written or oral contract that spells out the terms of the agreement. For example, when you hire employment lawyers in Colorado you will undoubtedly sign an express contract for legal services. Express contracts include individual contracts between employer and employee as well as collective bargaining agreements between union and employer. These wrongful termination claims arise from Colorado contract law, or federal and state labor law in the case of a collective bargaining agreement, and the remedies available may be a part of the written or oral contract.
Implied contracts are agreements created by the conduct of the parties where an agreement exists but no express terms exist. The most common way this occurs in employment is when the employer’s handbook or other documents creates expectations of secured employment beyond the at-will agreement. This is why most handbooks include express waivers that it does not create an employment contract. An implied contract might arise from emails or other documents that do not include express waivers.
Wrongful termination and contract standards for discharge
Wrongful termination claims for breach of contract exist because the contract sets a higher standard for termination. Under a collective bargaining agreement the common standard is “just cause” and may be further defined by the CBA. Under any other contract the standard may be defined by the contract. Otherwise normal contract law applies to the alleged breach. If you believe you have a claim due to an employment contract then you should contact Denver wrongful termination lawyers right away.
What kind of lawyers handle wrongful termination in Denver, Colorado?
Colorado employment lawyers generally handle employee claims for wrongful termination. Claims for wrongful termination are extremely common claims for employment attorneys across the nation. The end of the employment relationship is a clear adverse employment action against the employee. That creates a real harm to the employee that employment lawyers can show a jury. Other employment law claims like harassment or discriminatory refusal to hire are more difficult to prove as adverse employment actions on an unlawful basis. Damages in wrongful termination claims may be the largest due to the loss of wages. For these and many other reasons, many Denver employment lawyers represent clients in wrongful termination lawsuits.
If your wrongful termination claim relates to a statute or a collective bargaining agreement then one consideration when hiring an employment lawyer is whether the law firm or attorney has experience dealing with that statute or labor law. Not all employment law attorneys have expertise representing clients in every area of labor and employment law. Excellent employment lawyers may choose to focus on a select piece of the pie. That is not a criticism of their skills or abilities. It is difficult for any attorney to be an expert in everything.
Who are the best wrongful termination lawyers in Denver, Colorado?
When hiring Denver wrongful termination lawyers you should carefully consider many factors. Expertise, experience, areas of focus are among the key factors you should consider. You may even want to look beyond employment law attorneys. Some general plaintiffs’ law firms represent employees in wrongful termination. You may want to schedule multiple consultations and speak with several attorneys before choosing a wrongful termination lawyer for your claim. Undoubtedly you will find many attorneys will be your wrongful termination lawyer but you should choose an attorney who is best for you and your claims.
Wrongful termination lawyers will appear among your internet search and among attorney directories. Placement in search results and attorney directories is often the product of good marketing. Google, findlaw, justia, avvo and other most internet resources do not rank attorneys based upon their skillset. Search engines produce results on the basis of the website’s metrics. Most attorney directories are categorized by how much the law firm paid for the listing. Even attorney directories claiming exclusivity or rigorous standards are allegedly built on marketing opportunities. You may want to consider internet results among your search for the best wrongful termination lawyers in Denver, Colorado.
Wrongful termination lawyer in Denver, Colorado
If you are the victim of any of these wrongful termination circumstances then you should contact wrongful termination lawyers in Denver, Colorado. Employees who suffer a wrongful termination or wrongful discharge can recover from the employer for lost wages and other monetary damages. The specific remedies available for a wrongful dismissal claim depend upon the reason the employer fired the employee. A Denver employment lawyer can help you understand the legal issues in your wrongful termination claim and potential remedies.
Many wrongful termination claims have brief statutes of limitation period that requires employees to act quickly to pursue claims. Many claims also require specific procedures to pursue claims. Employees should schedule consultations with employment law attorneys to discuss their claims before taking action on a claim. The first step in a wrongful termination claim often sets the tone for future action on the claim. Working with a Colorado wrongful termination attorney is often a good idea.