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Can an Employee Sue their Employer for Wrongful Termination in Washington, DC?


In the District of Columbia, employment is considered to be “at will,” which means an employee can be laid off or fired by the employer at any time, even without a specified reason. This also means an employee is free to leave the company at any time they wish. However, there are certain circumstances where you cannot be fired or laid off, even if the person is an at-will employee.

If you run a business, it’s imperative to understand applicable employment laws and have a skilled Washington, DC wrongful termination lawyer who can verify that you follow all federal and state laws, thereby reducing the risk of future litigation.

Elements of a wrongful discharge claim must meet some criteria, such as the discharged person was an employee of the business, he or she was fired or received some other type of disciplinary employment action, and the employee’s protected conduct was the primary reason the employer opted to take disciplinary action.

Wrongful Discharge in District of Columbia

Employers cannot discriminate against an employee based on a variety of factors:

  • Race
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation

These are all protected under federal and state laws that specifically prohibit an employer from taking action against an employee for one of the aforementioned reasons. This can include termination, suspension, demotion, or other disciplinary action.

An employee who was wrongfully discharged could receive compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as pain and suffering. In select cases, a judge may award punitive damages against the employer.

Washington, DC wrongful discharge laws prohibit an employer from punishing an employee for his or her conduct that is protected by public policy. This might be something like going to jury duty, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or providing testimony in court under a subpoena. Essentially, the law prohibits an employer from firing an employee because the employee:

  • Contacted an authority to report a problem;
  • Exercised rights under specific laws; or
  • Refused to violate a law.

Depending on the circumstances, employees who are fired because they refuse to take part in illegal or fraudulent practices may have protection under the whistleblower laws.

Whistleblower Protections

Employees who have information that supports a claim of an employer violating laws or causing danger to public safety and health have an obligation to report it. This makes them a whistleblower. There are a number of federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. If you fire an employee because they came forward, they may have a valid claim against you.

Retaining a Washington, DC Employment Law Attorney

If you are facing a wrongful termination claim, it’s imperative you seek out a skilled Washington, DC employment law attorney. Defending a wrongful discharge claim can be complex, and having an experienced attorney can make a huge difference. Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. represents clients facing wrongful termination claims at both the federal and state level. We handle claims in neighboring Maryland and Virginia as well. Contact our office online or call 202-362-5900 to schedule a 30-minute consultation.

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