If you are fired after filing a sexual discrimination complaint, that constitutes retaliation in the eyes of the law and the at-will principle cannot be invoked.
Vermont is an employment at-will state, which allows employers to fire anyone without a reason, while employees also have the right to quit whenever they want. At first look, it would seem that an employer can do whatever he wants, but that is not so as numerous exceptions to the at-will rule apply. If you have any doubts whether or not your employer had the right to fire you for no reason, you should schedule a consultation with a skilled Vermont employment lawyer to see if you have a case.
Here are a few exceptions to the employment at-will rule.
Written or implied contract
If you have a written contract, the at-will rule does not apply. Your employer is required to respect the terms of your contract and they can only fire you if you do not comply with those terms. For instance, if the contract states that you may be fired for being late after you receive three warnings, your employer is not allowed to fire you the first time you show up late. Also, they are not allowed to fire you if you refuse to work more hours than stated in your contract or work night shifts if that was not in your contract.
An implied contract is basically a verbal agreement. The existence of a contract is implied from the conduct of both parties. However, this might be tricky to prove in a court of law so it’s best to talk to a seasoned employment lawyer in Burlington before you take any action.
Vermont employers do not have to give any reason when firing someone, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason. They always do and it might be that their reason is unlawful, which is why they prefer not to explain their decision.
In most cases, there’s some sort of discrimination involved. Employees in Vermont are protected against discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act. Both laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin.
For instance, if you believe the reason you were fired was that you are a person of color, a woman or an individual over the age of 40, you need to schedule a consultation with an employment lawyer to see what you can do about it. According to the law, it is the employer who needs to justify their action and convincingly show their decision had nothing to do with you being in a protected class. For example, they will have to prove they would have taken the same decision if you were white, not black.
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex. It doesn’t matter if you’re being harassed by a supervisor or a coworker, both types of sexual harassment are illegal. While in other states you need to go through several administrative proceedings, in Vermont you can file a discrimination lawsuit without filing an internal complaint first. You are entitled to claim non-economic damages for the mental suffering, as well as economic damages, covering your lost wages, if you were fired, as well as your attorney’s fees.
If you are fired after filing a sexual discrimination complaint, that constitutes retaliation in the eyes of the law and the at-will principle cannot be invoked. You can add a wrongful termination charge to that of sexual harassment.