The phrase “wrongful termination” floats around quite often, but what is wrongful termination? Does that mean there is “rightful termination”?  You may have heard that Utah is a “right to work state,” but what does that really mean?

In 1955 Utah passed right to work laws, codified at Utah Code Title 34 Chapter 34.  This means that as an employee in Utah, you can’t be forced to join or not join a union or labor organization, not hired because of membership or non-membership in a union or other organization, or given less work because of your membership or non-membership in any labor organization. Unfortunately, that is some of the only employment protection Utahans are afforded. 

Right to work does not mean you actually have a RIGHT to work and to not be fired.  Utah is as an “at-will” employment state. In Utah, unless you have an employment contract stating otherwise, your employment can be terminated at any time, for ALMOST any reason, and be legal.  You may also leave your employment at any time and for any reason. There are several reasons that an employer can not terminate your employment, however.

Title 42 of the United States Code outlines several situations in which your employer can not fire you, regardless of what state you live in and that state’s laws. In the United States your employment cannot be terminated, nor adversely affected for any discriminatory reason.  A “discriminatory reason” would be one made because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Your employment also cannot be terminated or negatively impacted in retaliation for speaking up or reporting discrimination based on any of these categories. 

There are laws protecting persons with disabilities from employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and protecting persons over 40 from employment discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The same guidelines apply in hiring as in terminating employment.  Federal and State anti-discrimination laws kick in as soon as a job is posted and throughout any interview process. A job posting can not specify marital or family status, an interviewer can not ask about religion or religious practices, and decisions about employment cannot be based on any of these protected categories, including disabilities. It can be difficult to prove that your employment has been adversely affected or terminated because of discrimination in the workplace, as employers often claim a number of non-discriminatory reasons for termination, but it is far from impossible.  It is important that your rights as an employee in the United States are protected, and discrimination in the workplace is not tolerated. If you believe your employment was denied, terminated, or negatively affected due to age, disability, gender, race, religion, color or national origin, schedule a time to meet with an attorney to discuss your options.