Although Washington is an at-will state, meaning most employees can be terminated without cause, and without notice, Washington law prohibits employers from terminating employees in violation of public policy. This common law framework is considered an exception to the general at-will employment rule, and employees are protected from termination only when they engage in specific activities. If you believe you’ve experienced wrongful termination from employment, you should contact one of our wrongful termination attorneys for a consultation.
What are the protected categories of wrongful termination?
There are four traditional categories of activity recognized by wrongful termination in violation of public policy case law. These four traditional categories are when an employee is fired after:
- Refusing to commit an illegal act;
- Performing a public duty or obligation;
- Exercising a legal right or privilege, g. initiating an L&I claim or serving jury duty;
- Reporting employer conduct, e. whistleblowing
What if I don’t fit into one of the four traditional categories?
There are potential protections even for employees who do not fall into one of the four traditional categories described above. In these cases, the court goes through a more in-depth analysis about whether the activity is covered by the wrongful termination in violation of public policy law. This analysis includes a four-part test:
- Was the employee’s conduct based on a clear mandate of public policy?
- Would discouraging the employee’s conduct jeopardize the public policy?
- Did the public policy-linked conduct cause the employee’s dismissal?
- Is the employer able to offer an overriding justification for the dismissal?
I believe I have been or will be subjected to wrongful termination, what should I do?
If you are currently employed and believe you have been or are about to be the victim of wrongful termination, you should consult with an experienced wrongful termination attorney as soon as possible. Making significant decisions without consulting an attorney could negatively impact your wrongful termination claims.
Is there a time limit on how long I can pursue a lawsuit?
A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum period for filing a lawsuit. The time frame can vary depending on the type of case or claim.
In the state of Washington, you generally have three years from the date you experienced wrongful termination to file a lawsuit but there may also be earlier deadlines. Contacting an employment lawyer as soon as possible is the best course of action to meet various deadlines and preserve evidence and witness testimony that builds a strong case on your behalf.