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You cannot lawfully be fired for the reasons listed in this article

Indiana is an at-will employment state. Essentially, state law does not prevent either a worker or an employer from terminating a work relationship at any point. A worker can quit without notice, an employer can fire them for a host of reasons or no specific reason at all.

At-will employment laws provide flexibility for businesses and workers alike, but they can also leave people feeling confused about their rights. There are still reasons for firing workers that are patently illegal. If someone loses their job for one of the reasons outlined in the article below, then they may potentially have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Discriminatory terminations

Federal law and Indiana state laws clearly establish protected characteristics for individuals. Employers cannot factor these characteristics into decisions about who to hire, who gets a promotion or who loses their job.

Protective characteristics include:

  • age if someone is over 40
  • race
  • national origin
  • sex
  • genetic information
  • disabling medical conditions
  • religion

If an employer acknowledges that one of those characteristics led to someone’s firing, then a worker could assert that they lost their job due to discrimination.

Retaliatory firings

Businesses should not fire workers for knowing and using their rights. For example, federal law protects the right of many workers to take unpaid leave. A worker should not face punishment for asking for a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act if they qualify.

Similarly, employers should not fire someone for reporting a pregnancy or asking for accommodations during said pregnancy. Attempting to organize with coworkers, reporting sexual harassment and notifying the company of illegal practices are all examples of protected activities. Workers can also report injuries/medical conditions, file workers’ compensation claims and seek accommodations without those matters affecting their employment.

Workers should not face retaliation because they act as whistleblowers or make use of their employment rights. Provided that a worker can connect their recent job loss to either their protected characteristics or lawfully protected workplace activity, they may be able to hold the business accountable for their wrongful termination.

A wrongful termination lawsuit might lead to financial compensation or even a worker getting their job back. Understanding when a termination is wrongful can help a worker who has lost their job stand up against business misconduct. Wrongful terminations might seem unlikely because of at-will employment laws, but they still happen with concerning frequency.

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