Iowa law divides employees into two main categories. The first, and less common, category is "contract employees." Contract employees have a contract of employment (usually written) with their employers. The employment contract will set out various terms and conditions of the employment. Sometimes the terms and conditions of the employment contract will cover the circumstances under which the employee's employment can be terminated by either party. We've provided additional information regarding the termination of contract employees on our law firm blog: "For Cause” Termination Of Contract Employees.
The second, and far more common, category of employees is "at-will employees." At-will employees usually don't have an employment contract. Their employment can be terminated at any time by either party for any reason, without prior warning or notice. Iowa law doesn't require employers to have "just cause" or "good cause" for firing an at-will employee. At-will employees can literally be fired for no reason at all. Thus, at-will employees rarely have any legal rights regarding a termination, other than to seek unemployment benefits, with two exceptions. First, employers cannot violate a state or federal statute prohibiting discrimination or other laws (for example, drug testing and alcohol testing and polygraph laws) when firing an employee. Second, employers cannot engage in unlawful "retaliation," which refers to situations in which an employee is fired at least in part for engaging in activity that the law protects from retaliation.
Not everything an employee does is "protected" from "retaliation." Most isn't. But there are a few general areas of recognized retaliation, with more being added occasionally. The currently recognized types of protected activity, for which retaliation is illegal and can lead to a wrongful discharge claim, include:
Those are just a few examples of situations in which an employee can sue after being fired. This area of law is regularly expanded by the courts and the state and federal governments, with more types of employee activity being protected all the time, so please make sure to speak to an attorney if you have any concerns about whether your termination was legal.
Your legal remedies if you're wrongfully terminated are many and varied. The remedies depend upon which law you're suing under; some types of claims have more restrictive remedies than others, so not all of the general types of remedies listed here may be available in your particular case.
A judge can order that you be reinstated to your job if that's appropriate in your case. You might also be able to recover compensatory damages for lost wages and other economic harm and emotional distress, plus attorney fees and litigation expenses. Maybe even punitive damages.
Our Des Moines law firm has considerable experience in wrongful termination cases. We have amassed a great deal of knowledge about all aspects of this legal area through our work on behalf of those employees. We welcome you to share in some of that knowledge by reviewing various blog posts that we have made on wrongful termination topics. Here are a few examples that you might find helpful:
Our firm has tried numerous employment law cases from our Des Moines offices. Wrongful discharge cases require legal analysis of federal and state statutes and court decisions. We offer additional, more specific information about various employment law topics at our on-site and off-site blogs that we hope you'll find helpful. If, after reviewing this information, you'd like to speak with us about your case, please reach out to us through the Web Contact Form by using the "Contact Us" button or by calling (515) 281-1460. We make every effort to provide a same-day response to all communications received during weekday business hours. Initial telephone calls are always free. If it looks like we can help, it'll be our pleasure to meet with you, learn more about your situation, and lend you a hand. We handle as many of our cases as possible on a contingent fee basis, meaning that there's no fee unless we make a monetary recovery for you.
Erbe Law Firm
2501 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
Erbe Law Firm has proudly served clients throughout Iowa since 2005 from our Des Moines offices. We look forward to hearing from you to see whether we can do the same for you.
Harley C. Erbe