In the state of Minnesota, strong evidence is required to prove a wrongful termination case. Employers have a legal right to terminate your employment at any time. The “employment at will” standard doesn’t apply if you have an employment contract or protection from a union or collective bargaining agreement. It also doesn’t apply if an employer makes a hiring or firing decision based on age or any other illegal or discriminatory reasons.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 made it illegal to discriminate against employees aged 40 and over. Minnesota human rights laws also prohibit age-related bias. Despite the intent of these statutes, age discrimination remains a factor in older workers’ wrongful termination cases.
Why Is Wrongful Termination Still an Issue?
Wrongful termination presents a consistent challenge for older workers. You’ll never see “age” listed as a reason for letting you go, but it’s often an underlying factor in older worker terminations. Age becomes an invisible barrier that minimizes your chance of finding a replacement career. As the recent report, “Meeting the World’s MidCareer Moment,” demonstrates, once an employee or job candidate reaches age 45, employers simply see them as less desirable.
- Hiring managers demonstrate perception biases against older workers.
- They consistently prefer job candidates and employees aged 35–44.
- Seventy-one percent of job seekers aged 45+ see age as their primary barrier to employment.
- After losing their jobs, 63% of job seekers aged 45+ remained unemployed for a year or more.
- Before they receive a job offer, older workers participate in 53% more job interviews than younger candidates.
What Should You Do if You Believe You’re the Victim of a Wrongful Termination?
If you believe your employer terminated you because of your age or another illegal reason, you must initiate a wrongful termination case process as soon as possible. Contact an employment law attorney to discuss your concerns, and receive guidance as to what your next move is.
When you have your first meeting with a wrongful termination lawyer, it’s an informal exchange of information. The attorney asks questions about your workplace problems and listens to your responses. If you provide enough information, a seasoned employment attorney can give you an opinion as to whether your wrongful termination case warrants further investigation.
The information you receive during your free case evaluation helps you decide if you wish to make a claim. You won’t have to give an immediate yes or no answer, but you shouldn’t wait too long to make a decision. Depending on your circumstances, you have from 180 days up to one year from an incident to make a claim and pursue damages.
Pre-Litigation: Before You File a Lawsuit
Before you can file a lawsuit against your employer, you must first comply with state and federal discrimination claim guidelines. The Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Human Rights Department require that you notify one or both of them before taking further action. Each has different guidelines as to when you may file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
You encounter fewer legal hurdles when an employment law attorney gets involved during the early stages. When you establish a working relationship as soon as possible, your attorney has more time to fully investigate and analyze your wrongful termination case. Early involvement also gives your lawyer an opportunity to preserve critical evidence before your employer influences your coworkers or removes relevant documents.
EEOC or MDHR filing
Before you proceed with litigation, you must either file a report with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You have a right to have a lawyer represent your legal interests throughout either process.
Minnesota Department of Human Rights
The MDHR Civil Rights Investigation Process requires that you file a wrongful termination discrimination report within one year of the incident. Once you file, MDHR follows a step-by-step process.
- Determine if your incident is covered under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
- File a charge against the employer for a covered incident and notify them of your report.
- Investigate your allegations.
- Negotiate a settlement through a conciliation process if the investigation shows probable cause.
- Notify your former employer of the findings and their right to file an appeal.
- The Attorney General files a suit against your employer.
- Your attorney may file a lawsuit at any time during this process.
- MDHR automatically cross-files your complaint with the EEOC if your allegations appear valid.
- You may ask the EEOC to review MDHR’s investigation if you disagree with their findings.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
To report your wrongful termination to the EEOC, you must file a Charge of Discrimination within 180 days of your termination date. Based on Minnesota’s discrimination statutes, they may extend your filing date to 300 days. Once they receive your charge, the EEOC follows its standard procedure.
- The commission investigates your case to determine its validity.
- Unlike other discrimination cases, you don’t need an EEOC “Notice to Sue” before you file an age discrimination/wrongful termination lawsuit. Your attorney may file a suit in state or federal court within 60 days of your EEOC filing.
- Once you receive notification that the EEOC has closed your file, you have 90 additional days to file a suit.
- If the EEOC finds reasonable cause that your employer discriminated against you, they attempt to resolve your case through the conciliation process. If they can’t settle your case, they won’t necessarily file a lawsuit. They file lawsuits in only a few cases.
- Federal employees must initiate a discrimination process by contacting an EEO Counselor within 45 days of an incident.
Civil Court Litigation Process
Your attorney formalizes your wrongful termination allegations in a court document called a complaint. It names you as the plaintiff and your employer as the defendant. The complaint explains why you believe that you were wrongfully terminated and asks for compensation.
After filing your complaint with the court clerk in your jurisdiction, your attorney follows the litigation process established by Minnesota civil procedure.
- Service: After your attorney files your lawsuit, he or she must comply with civil court procedures and serve your former employer with a copy of the suit. This can be completed through the local sheriff, by the U.S. Mail, or electronically. When your former employer receives a copy of your suit, they must file a formal answer with the court.
- Discovery: After the defendant files an answer to your lawsuit, the attorneys participate in a discovery process. Your attorney makes formal requests for evidence and obtains deposition testimony to support your case. The defendant’s attorney seeks evidence that disproves your allegations.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: In many cases, attorneys agree to mediation or other ADR processes. During mediation, the attorneys meet with a negotiation facilitator and attempt to resolve your case without going to trial.
- Trial: If you, your employer, and the attorneys can’t work out a settlement, the attorneys present their evidence at trial. Your attorney helps you decide the best trial option for your case.
- Jury trial: The attorneys present the evidence and a jury decides.
- Bench trial: A judge hears the evidence and makes a decision.
Will We See Additional Protections For Older Workers?
The H.R. 2602 Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act hopes to change the employment trends that displace older workers. The U.S. House passed the bill in 2020 but it’s still pending further action in the Senate. If passed, the law will restore protections diminished by a 2009 Supreme Court ruling.
Speak With an Expert About Your Wrongful Termination Case
If you believe that your employer terminated you because of your age, you must take immediate steps to hold them accountable. Contact MJSB Employment Justice to discuss your wrongful termination case. Our attorneys deal with complex employment cases every day. We evaluate our clients’ cases and prepare flexible strategies to help them manage employment-related issues.