It can happen to anyone. You have been a good employee for years, with only positive performance reviews, your supervisor likes you and praises your work, you’re a model employee. But then, out of the blue, HR calls you in to give you a termination letter. What should you be on the lookout for?
First, read the termination letter carefully. Look for what their stated reason for termination is. In New Hampshire, most workers are considered “at will”, meaning they don’t have an employment contract. At will employees can be terminated for any reason, or no reason, so long as the reason is not illegal. It is a discriminatory, illegal practice for an employer to terminate an employee based on their: age, sex, gender identity, race, religion, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, national origin, or sexual orientation. If any of these come up in your termination letter, you may have a valid claim for wrongful termination and employment discrimination and our employment law team is here to help.
Often, however, employers say an employee was fired for one reason when in reality their reason for termination was discriminatory. They use a vague reason such as “poor performance” as a cover up for illegal motivations. This leads to the next step, gathering all documents. New Hampshire law states you have a right to your personnel file, so request this as soon as possible. Sometimes employers will try to slip in problematic performance reviews to make the termination look legitimate. Requesting your personnel file early prevents this. Next, gather any communications with your employer. Emails, text messages, Facebook messages, etc.. These can also be used to show that the stated reason for termination on the letter was not the true motivation. Finally, your experience at the workplace matters. If coworkers or supervisors were making discriminatory comments to you and you were terminated shortly after, that can also show an illegal termination.
Lastly, contact the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC is tasked with investigating potential charges of discrimination. The HRC offers a confidential questionnaire on their website which allows the Commission to gather preliminary information before a charge of discrimination is filed. On the questionnaire, the Commission asks basic questions about the facts that a filer believes show they were discriminated against, what the employer did, and so on. If the Commission agrees that your claim is valid, they explain the next steps in filing a formal charge of discrimination. If they find a petition does not have a basis to file a charge of discrimination, they explain what issues they find with a claim. A charge of discrimination with the HRC is necessary in any wrongful termination action. This questionnaire can be completed with the assistance of an employment attorney, but is also meant for use by any employee who feels they were discriminated against.
With the uncertainty that being terminated from your job can bring, the last thing many people want to deal with is the legal system. The experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay can help simplify the process and fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case. If you have been the victim of employment discrimination in New Hampshire, contact our office today to find out what rights you have.