Even people who perform their jobs well aren’t safe from wrongful termination. Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning that your employer may be able to fire you for no reason at all. However, you might have legal recourse if your dismissal resulted from illegal discrimination or retaliation for exercising your legal rights.
Daniel McKenna, an Irish-born fitness instructor, filed a wrongful termination claim against his former employer, Peleton, after the exercise equipment company fired him. Mr. McKenna had never been accused of misconduct and was popular with Peleton users who took his online classes. The lawsuit alleges that company managers belittled his accent, made jokes hinting that he might be drunk, complained about his decision to go on disability and refused his request for an exemption from the company’s Covid-19 vaccine policy, which he sought because he feared the shot would delay his recovery.
In order to win a case for wrongful termination, McKenna will need to prove that Peleton fired him for an illegal reason, such as discrimination based on his ethnicity or disability status. Jokes about his accent and being drunk could be evidence of an anti-Irish bias that contributed to the decision to fire him, supporting a claim for ethnic discrimination. Warnings that the company frowned on workers taking off from work for disabilities can likewise help to prove discrimination arising from his medical condition.
If your employer presents evidence that it had a legitimate basis for your firing, such as poor performance of your duties or workplace misconduct, you need to present evidence disputing that assertion. You might, for instance, demonstrate that the supposedly legitimate basis for your dismissal is false and merely serves as a pretext for a wrongful termination. One possible way to do this is to show that other employees were not fired under similar circumstances. In McKenna’s case, if Peleton claims it fired him because he violated its vaccine mandate, he might provide medical testimony that it would impede his recovery or that others were granted similar exemptions.
As Texas is an at-will employment state, it is important to remember that the burden is on the worker to prove there is an unlawful motivation for the firing. A company will not be held liable if nothing is proven as to the reasons behind the dismissal. Firing someone for no reason at all is legal. This is why it is important to consult with a qualified employment attorney before determining to bring a wrongful termination action.
Based in Houston, the Law Offices of David C. Holmes represents Texas employees who were wrongfully terminated. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online.