Wrongful Termination and "At-Will" Employment in Kentucky and Indiana

July 4, 2012

Kentucky and Indiana are both "at-will" employment states. What this means is that employees can be demoted or fired by their employers at any time. Workers who have certain types of contracts with their employers or are union workers may be more protected when it comes to being demoted or fired by their employers. If it is legal for employers to fire employees for pretty much any reason, how do Kentucky and Indiana wrongful termination lawsuits even exist?

An employee can claim wrongful termination for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is if an employee has a written contract to work a certain length of time and the employer fires him before the contract is up. Breaking a union contract through firing may also lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit, but only after the proper grievance procedure of the union is followed.

Most often, wrongful termination cases arise from other situations. If someone thinks they have been let go because of their race, religion, age, gender, or disability, this may constitute workplace discrimination and they may be able to take legal action. In a recent Kentucky wrongful termination case, a former vice president of the Courier-Journal has filed a lawsuit stating he was wrongfully terminated because of his age. He was let go at age 62 and was told that his job was being eliminated. Subsequently the newspaper allegedly hired someone who was younger than him to fill the position. Employees over the age of 40 are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employers from terminating employees based only on their age.

If an employee is fired for trying to protect their legal rights, that may also qualify them for wrongful termination. For example, if someone with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation at work and they are fired, they may have been wrongfully terminated as retaliation for asserting their rights. In the case of an Indiana tennis coach who just settled a wrongful termination lawsuit against Ball State, her suit alleged that she was fired as retaliation for her sexual discrimination complaint. The university recently settled with her for $710,000.

Most employees are eligible for family medical leave or workers compensation if they have a child or become too ill or injured to work for a period of time. If an employer fires a person for attempting to use either of these benefits, the employee may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Wrongful termination is a complicated matter that is best handled by those who are knowledgeable in employment law. The Kentucky and Indiana employment attorneys at Miller & Falkner have over eight years of experience in protecting employees' rights and fighting for the justice and compensation they deserve if those rights are violated. If you think you have been wrongfully terminated, contact a Miller & Falkner attorney to discuss your situation.

Sources:

Former Courier-Journal vice president files wrongful termination suit against newspaper, Gannett; The Courier-Journal; Jason Riley; June 30, 2012

Fired BSU coach gets $710K settlement; The Star Press; Doug Zaleski; June 29, 2012