Wrongful Termination and Alabama Law
What are my options if my employer wrongfully fired me?
Under Alabama law, an employee can be fired or terminated for any reason, whether it’s a good reason, bad reason or for no reason. This is called the employee at will doctrine. Under this doctrine, an employer can terminate someone for virtually any reason, whether its legitimate or not. Suppose for example that your employer fires you for stealing his favorite pen. The next day he finds it under his desk and realizes you did not steal it but refuse to hire you back. Under Alabama law, you cannot bring a suit for wrongful termination even though his reason for firing you is without a basis.
However, there are a number of federal exceptions that trump Alabama law. These include terminations based upon race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, etc. Unless you are fired for one of these federally protected reasons, you will probably be out of luck in getting compensation for your termination.
Finally, there is one exception to all the above: Alabama’s Worker’s Compensation Act forbids employers from firing a workers solely because they filed a workmen’s comp claim. Notice the emphasis on “solely”. If the employer has any other legitimate reason for the alleged wrongful termination, the mere fact that the firing comes on the heels of an on-the-job injury will not support a claim for wrongful termination.
Why would an employer fire an employee for making a workers comp claim? There are several reasons: to avoid paying workers comp benefits, to keep workers comp insurance premiums down, to avoid OSHA inquiries, etc.
In short, if you have not been injured on the job or do not have a written and enforceable employment contract, every work day could be your last… with no legal options available to you.