Can I Sue for Being Fired Without Warning?


Cassandra Nguy

It’s possible to sue for being fired without warning if it was done on illegal grounds and in an at-will employment state. You may sue your employer for firing you due to the following reasons:

  • Discrimination
  • Breach of contract
  • Unjust retaliation, and other illicit justifications.

Most states work under at-will employment, meaning an employer may let an employee go without cause or reason as long as it’s not an illegal reason.

You may file a wrongful termination lawsuit if you believe your employer has infringed your employment rights. If you prove their actions violated one of your protected classes, you may qualify for compensation.

If you’re unsure whether you qualify, contact an experienced employment attorney to help you with your claim. Only through talking with an expert can you receive specific legal advice for your situation. It never hurts to get a second opinion.

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When Getting Fired Without Warning is Wrongful Termination

Below are the top seven ways you may have been unjustly fired without warning. Not every unjust firing lawsuit falls under just wrongful termination.

Consider these reasons when talking with your employment attorney, because they may request specific documents as evidence for your claim. The employment case timeline may be long, but proper preparation can ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

1. Discrimination

Even though at-will employment allows employers to fire their workers without reason, it’s against federal and state laws to fire someone due to a protected class. If you were fired without warning due to discrimination, you may sue your employer to recover damages. Examples of such protected classes include:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Country of origin
  • Gender/sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Disability

If an employer uses discriminatory practices and you were fired without warning, you may have a wrongful termination case.

You may have to file an official complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when unjustly fired without warning. The EEOC is responsible for developing policies and complying with regulations that justify equal employment for everyone free from discriminatory practices.

2. Broken Written or Oral Contract

When employers and employees agree to a written or oral contract in terms of employment, they are legally required to follow these contracts. An employer that fired the employee under contract may sue for a breach of contract.

An example would be if the written contract states the employee may work full-time by a certain deadline. If the employer fires the employee before the term ends, there may be a breach of contract. The employee can file a lawsuit against the employer under breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The contract for your employment governs the conditions for your termination. Therefore, it’s not the same as at-will employment where an employer may fire without cause or reason; it is overwritten by your contract.

3. Implied Promises

An implied promise is an agreement based on things your employer stated or did and is another exception to the at-will employment rule.

Implied promises are difficult to prove since nothing is written or recorded, and most employers are careful not to make promises they cannot keep.

Sometimes, implied promises are found where employers agree to future secured employment or when employers make further promises in an employee manual. A court would observe these list of things to determine if there’s an implied promise:

  • Duration of your employment
  • Frequency of job promotions
  • History of favorable performance reviews
  • Implications of assurance in continued employment
  • Whether your employer fired you without the required warning or made promises of long-term employment during the hiring process

Generally, an implied promise is a legal obligation that isn’t explicitly stated but understood through the events and actions of the parties involved.

In a contract work environment, if the employee is promised full-time employment after meeting all required work tasks during their employment deadline, the employer should be obligated to grant them.

Failure to abide by these implied promises may pose violations and an employee may sue due to breach of good faith and fair dealing.

4. Breached Good Faith and Fair Dealing

You may sue for breaches of good faith and fair dealing if an employer acts inequitably. Acting without good faith and fair dealing can often be used in situations like:

  • The employer terminates or transfers employees to prevent them from gathering sales and commissions.
  • Employer lies to employees about chances of promotions and wage increases.
  • Employer falsifies reasons to fire employees so they can hire another employee to replace them for lower pay.
  • An employer underplays the bad aspects of a job, such as going to dangerous places late at night.
  • Worker is transferred to dangerous areas, forcing them to work in undesirable assignments to force them to quit.

Understand that a few courts may not recognize good faith and fair dealing for at-will employment rules. Some states may require you to have an official contract presented before employees may sue for breach of good faith and fair dealing.

Due to how subjective a breach in good faith can be read, hiring an employment attorney to properly represent your case is key. 

5. Retaliation from Illegal Practices

Employers are forbidden to retaliate against employees for engaging in legally-protected practices. For instance, if an employee files a complaint with human resources, the employer cannot retaliate against using their rights.

You may sue for being fired without warning if an employer retaliates against you for exercising your rights. If your employer is retaliating against you to prevent your federally-protected rights, you must prove how you lost your job through unjustified standards.

  1. You were engaged in a legally protected activity—filing a complaint within your rights such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, human resources, etc. Or formally complaining to your employer about harassment and discrimination.
  2. Your complaint has prompted your employer to retaliate against you, for instance, you were reprimanded for filing a harassment charge.
  3. You were faced with adverse employment actions such as termination, promotion denial, or an unwarranted negative performance review.

Someone who reveals a private or public company’s illegal practices is known as a whistleblower. They are usually employees who face retaliation for disclosing illegal information, resulting in their termination of employment.

Most states provide protection to those who report that their employer broke federal employment law, like preventing unsafe working conditions.

6. Termination Due to Legally Taking Time Off Work

You may sue for being fired without warning if your employer terminated you for legally taking time off work. Employees are legally permitted to take time off work for medical leave, military obligations, and other reasons.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law implemented to protect your job while on-leave. It prohibits employers from firing employees in retaliation for exercising their rights.

Some employers working under at-will employment regulations are crafty in how they’d fire you. If you’re on medical leave, they may fire you after you have returned to work after assessing your situation. However, your employer can never terminate your employment simply because you took leave under FMLA.

7. Failure to Follow Proper Firing Procedures

Companies must follow a proper firing procedure for taking disciplinary action against employees.

For example, as part of company policy, employees who violate the rules will first be given a verbal warning. If the employee repeats the violation, they’ll be written up and may have two chances to redeem themselves, or else they’ll be fired in the process.

When these disciplinary actions are placed and employers don’t follow proper firing procedures, this can be a stipulation for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

How to Report Your Employer for Firing You Without Warning

If you believe your employer unjustly fired you without warning, you may file a complaint with a government agency at your state’s labor department. Follow these reporting requirements with your employment attorney to proceed with your claim:

  • Termination Due to Discrimination
    • If you were fired due to discriminatory practices, file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Termination in Retaliation
    • If you were fired for reporting unsafe or illegal activity, you have whistleblower protections. Report your termination with the Occupational Safety Health and Administration (OSHA).
  • Termination for Exercising Your Legal Rights
    • If your employer fired you for exercising your legal rights under a state labor law, report it to your state’s labor department.
  • Find Legal Counsel
    • In under all of these situations and others, find legal representation to properly defend yourself.

Suing Your Employer for Being Fired Without Warning

You may also file a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination. Contact an experienced employment attorney to help with your case.

You’ll need to gather evidence and prove that your employer’s reasons were illegal. This may include performance reviews, emails, witness statements, etc.

Every Employment Lawsuit is Different

Every lawsuit contains circumstances that differentiate themselves from others. Because of these differences, your chances for compensation increase when you hire an employment lawyer to analyze your case.

For example, Tucker v. Walgreen Co. was a race discrimination class action lawsuit brought by African American employees against retail and pharmacy stores owned by Walgreens in Kansas City. The EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging similar violations against Walgreens.

Both parties reached an agreement of $20 million given to the class by Walgreens over the course of five years.

Another example, EEOC v. North Georgia Foods, Inc is a case where the franchise Burger King agreed to pay $60,000 to EEOC employees for a sexual harassment, retaliation, and pregnancy discriminatory lawsuit.

The harassment included vulgar sexual comments, threatening behavior, and unwelcoming physical touch.

Filing a complaint with the EEOC before suing due to getting fired without warning may help in defending your employees’ rights. Generally, you must file a claim within 180 days of being fired without warning to preserve your rights.

For filing a complaint with the EEOC, you may have up to 300 days if the cause is for discriminatory practices. If you are pursuing state and federal charges, you’ll have to file with the EEOC first before bringing it up to court. It’s best to speak with an experienced attorney to understand the statutes of limitations within your state.

Locate an Employment Attorney Near You with LegalASAP

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Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at