Many Arizonians spend much of their day working from home, an office, or a bustling service-oriented location. In the best circumstances, workplaces empower professional growth and development. Unfortunately, workplaces can also breed legal disputes, particularly regarding wrongful termination.
When an employer fires an employee unlawfully, the employee’s first question is often, Can you sue for wrongful termination in Arizona? In many cases, the answer is yes.
So let’s look at the conditions that give rise to a wrongful termination lawsuit and the steps needed to initiate legal action.
When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in AZ?
Like many states in the US, Arizona operates under an “at-will” employment doctrine. “At-will” employment means an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or even no reason—except when the termination violates a law, policy, or employment contract. Under the same doctrine, an employee may leave their job at any time without reason.
Let’s discuss some unlawful circumstances that may give rise to a lawsuit.
Employment Contract Violations
Employment contracts can be written, oral, or implied, and they typically include criteria that guarantee specific rights. Any termination that fails to meet these criteria may be considered wrongful.
Breaches of good faith are also considered contract violations. So, for example, if an employment contract promises a bonus if you meet a financial goal by the year’s end, but your employer terminates you before then to avoid paying you the premium, you may have a valid wrongful termination case.
Termination because of race, sex, orientation, age, disability, religion, national origin, pregnancy, or genetic information is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Arizona civil rights laws.
Constructive discharge—or forcing an employee to resign by making the work environment so intolerable that a reasonable person cannot stay—is also prohibited by law. This can often lead to a hostile work environment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these anti-discrimination laws.
Federal and Arizona laws specifically prohibit employers from terminating employees because of retaliation. They report the employer for breaking the law or attempting to force the employee to break the law.
This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Filing a whistleblower claim;
- Cooperating in an investigation against the employer;
- Filing a claim for workplace discrimination;
- Filing a claim for unsafe working conditions;
- Filing a claim for wage and hour violations;
- Complaining about sexual harassment or filing a sexual harassment claim; and
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
If your termination directly resulted from exercising one of these or other legal rights, you may have a claim for wrongful termination.
Qualified Time Off
The Arizona Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act gives Arizona employees mandatory earned sick leave. Arizona and federal laws also allow employees to take time off from work to attend to personal responsibilities, such as caring for or bonding with a newborn or recovering from a medical condition.
If your employer fires you for taking qualified time off, you may have a claim for unlawful termination.
Violation of Public Policy
Terminations that contravene public policy are illegal. For instance, an employer cannot fire you for taking time off to vote in a state or national election, serve on a jury, or perform military service. If your termination violates a clear mandate of public policy, you may have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
How to Sue for Wrongful Termination in AZ
If you believe your employer wrongfully terminated you, take the following steps:
- Consult an employment lawyer – A knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand your rights, assess your claim’s strength, and guide you through the complex legal process.
- Know your rights – Understanding Arizona’s employment laws and how they apply to your situation is the first step to answering the question: Can you sue for wrongful termination in Arizona? Do your research and identify whether your termination is unlawful.
- Collect evidence – If you suspect your employer unfairly terminated you, gather your employment contract, letters, emails, memos, performance reviews, disciplinary records, witness statements, and any communication related to your termination that could substantiate your claim.
- File a complaint – You may need to file a complaint with the appropriate administrative agency before filing a lawsuit; this agency will investigate your case and may issue a “right to sue” letter. If your wrongful termination case involves discrimination, you should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act or the Arizona Civil Rights Division (ACRD) within 180 days of the termination.
- Mediation or negotiation – You may be able to resolve your dispute through mediation or negotiation. A skilled attorney can represent your interests during these discussions to secure a favorable settlement.
- File a lawsuit – If you cannot resolve the issue through mediation or negotiation, your lawyer will draft a complaint that details your allegations and the damages you seek. When you file the complaint, you are filing a lawsuit against your employer.
- Litigation – Your attorney will work with you to build a strong case, gather additional evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare for trial. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will present it, cross-examine witnesses, and advocate for your rights.
Timelines are crucial in Arizona wrongful termination lawsuits. Typically, you have one year from your termination date to file most wrongful termination cases, but the statute of limitations varies depending on your cause of action.
If your case involves discrimination, you only have 180-300 days to file a complaint with the EEOC or Arizona Civil Rights Division. Consulting with an experienced employment law attorney will ensure you meet all deadlines for your specific scenario.
Contact Shields Petitti & Zoldan, PLC
At Shields Petitti & Zoldan, PLC, our reputation for securing favorable outcomes is backed by over $25 million we’ve won in client settlements. With over five decades of combined experience, our seasoned employment lawyers are committed to providing exceptional legal representation and are not afraid to go to trial to protect your rights.
Our team believes workplaces should provide growth and opportunity, not unfair practices and conflicts. We invite you to contact us at 602-718-3330 to schedule a consultation and join us in our mission to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected for their contributions.