Wrongful Termination FAQ

Do employers have to give a reason for terminating employees?

No. Because Iowa is an at-will employment state, both employers and employees are allowed to terminate employment at any time, for virtually any reason, or for no reason at all. Employers are not required to give a reason for terminating an employee.

What happens if I am a union member who feels I was wrongfully terminated?

Union members usually have specific rights outlined in their union agreements. The union agreement will typically outline the steps that a wrongfully terminated worker must take before they are able to file any lawsuit for their claim. Lawsuits could be permissible in certain cases involving discrimination, retaliation, or whistleblower issues.

Can I be fired when I took a leave of absence for an illness or medical condition?

It depends. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Iowa Civil Rights Act, certain employers cannot discriminate against employees because of disabilities or medical conditions. These laws also require that these employers reasonably accommodate an employee who has a disability so long as the accommodation does not create an undue burden on the employer. Thus, a medically necessary leave of absence may be a legally-protected accommodation, meaning that the employer violates the law when it terminates the employee.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that may also offer some protection. The FMLA requires that certain employers allow an employee to take a medically necessary leave of absence and requires the employer to restore said employee to her position upon the conclusion of the FMLA-protected leave of absence.

Is it wrongful termination if I am fired for refusing a superior’s request for a date?

If an employer or another co-worker makes sexual advances that cause an employee to feel uncomfortable, this generally constitutes sexual harassment. Similarly, an employee who loses their job for not honoring an employer or another co-worker’s requests for sexual advances could have a sexual harassment claim.

Can I be fired when I have an employment contract?

When contracts are involved in employment matters, many employers will claim that employees somehow breached their contracts. The breach of contract will often be used as the basis for the firing, but some employees may be able to argue that their actions did not actually constitute a breach of an employment contract.

If you had an employment contract and you suspect your termination was wrongful, you will want to make sure that you are working with an experienced attorney. They will be able to review the entire contract, and may discover other evidence that will prove that your termination was wrongful.

What is constructive discharge?

Constructive discharge is the term used to describe a situation in which an employee is forced to quit because an employer makes working conditions completely unbearable. This could be done through discrimination, harassment, or other negative changes in either pay or actual work, or for reasons unrelated to the job itself.

What should I do if I think I was wrongfully terminated?

Be sure to keep as many records as possible that relate to your employment. These can be extremely helpful in your case. For example, collect any performance reviews that indicated a positive work performance and a copy of any documents related to the termination.

You have a limited amount of time in which to take action in these cases, so you should retain a lawyer involved as soon as possible. An attorney can not only tell you what other actions need to be taken, but they will generally be able to handle all of the legal legwork involved, so you can be assured that important deadlines are met.

Can I look for another job while a wrongful termination case is still pending?

You can absolutely seek new employment while pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit. Keep a record of all of your employment-related activities, from job applications to interviews. Record the names of every company to which you applied, any representatives with whom you spoke, and all the positions for which you applied.

What rights do I have when an employer is conducting an investigation into misconduct and wants to meet with me?

Employers are authorized to perform their own internal investigations into wrongdoing in the workplace, and employees who refuse to cooperate with these investigations could place their jobs at risk. In cases of theft or property damage, employers may view employees who refuse to cooperate as potentially being involved in the misconduct. Union members may be entitled to have union representation during these meetings.

Is an employer in Iowa allowed to blacklist me?

The term blacklisting refers to a person being placed on a list of undesirable employees, which is then shared by multiple employers. Numerous sections of the Iowa Code prevent this practice, establishing that it is a serious misdemeanor when any employer, after discharging an employee, to prevent or attempt to prevent that person from obtaining employment with any other employer, either by word or in writing.

Iowa state law allows for triple damages (three times the amount of the actual or compensatory damages) against any company that authorizes or permits a discharged employee to be blacklisted.

What can an employer say about me as a job reference?

Employers must give honest opinions about their workers when asked. Most employers, when contacted by another company about a former employee, will limit their statements to basic information, such as wages an employee earned and positions they held, without offering much additional insight. If an employer provides negative information about a former employee that the person believes is inaccurate, there could be grounds for a defamation claim.

What are mediation and arbitration?

Mediation and arbitration are resolution methods that allow parties to settle their cases as an alternative to a standard court trial.

In mediation, both parties work with an independent third party, called a mediator, whose only goal is to help the two parties reach a resolution. A mediator is impartial, and makes no judgments on contested issues, working only to help the two parties try to find common ground.

Arbitration is somewhat like a trial, but without a jury. An arbitrator is an independent third party who hears contested issues and impartially renders a decision. Depending on what the parties agree to at the beginning of the process, arbitration will be either binding or non-binding. This means that some arbitrators’ decisions may later be appealed in a court of law.