Wrongful Termination: The Harsh Reality

I have owned and managed a law firm for the past 10+ years. I have litigated or arbitrated about 150 cases. This says nothing of all the other matters resolved via pre-suit negotiation or mediation. I have represented more than 1,000 employees. Every week, our firm receives more than 500+ inquires from folks who have some sort of employment matter. Every single day, dozens of people call or email our office and say that they have been “wrongfully terminated” and want to pursue a case. But most people have absolutely zero concept of what wrongful termination actually means.

Virtually everybody thinks they have a case — but relatively few people do. This might offend you. This might not be what you want to hear. But this will save you from wasting your time, spinning your wheels, having unreasonable expectations, and having false hope.

Yes, this is me. Jonathan Pollard. I’m writing this myself. Look me up. Then maybe you will understand who you are dealing with. I don’t need anyone’s business. I don’t need anyone’s case. I only take the cases that I 100% believe in. I only accept the clients who I 100% believe in. So, with that in mind, consider the following guidance:

  • “They didn’t give me a reason.” Point of clarification: A company has ZERO obligation to give you a reason for termination, demotion, cutting your hours, not giving you a promotion, etc. There is no law that requires a company to explain its business decisions.
  • “I was fired and the reason was completely unfair.” Again: There is no law requiring that hiring and firing decisions be what you perceive as fair. Unfair does not automatically equate with illegal. Remember: Wrongful termination means LEGALLY wrongful termination. Not unfair termination.
  • “I was fired and the reason they gave me was a complete lie.” We see / hear this one all the time. A company lying about the reason for your termination is unfair. But it is not illegal. Example: Employee says company fired them for violating XYZ rules by they never violated XYZ rules. Employee wants to sue for wrongful termination. That is not how the law works. Unless there was some type of discrimination or retaliation for engaging in legally protected conduct (i.e. complaining about discrimination, asking about overtime pay, testifying in a court proceeding, etc)…. then a company lying about why they fire an employee doesn’t violate any laws. BUT: Depending on how bad / ugly the lie is, there might be a defamation claim. Please: Do not get your hopes up and do not contact my office to tell me / my team that you just know you have a huge defamation claim. You can contact us and ask if you have a defamation claim. That’s very different. We will only pursue defamation cases where the statement is “defamation per se”. That means so inherently bad and harmful to one’s reputation that damages can be presumed. So, in the workplace context: Calling you incompetent doesn’t matter. That’s an opinion. But saying you stole from the company? Saying you had the lowest sales performance when you absolutely didn’t? Saying you committed malpractice (as a doctor, accountant, or other professional)? Yep, those are defamation per se if published / told to other people.
  • “I was fired without probable cause.” This is not criminal law. This is a job. Any company can fire any at-will employee for any reason that does not implicate discrimination or retaliation for engaging in legally protected activity.
  • “My voice wasn’t being heard and I wasn’t getting the support that I needed.” Again: Just because a company is poorly run and managers / bosses are jerks or shitty human beings does not.= unlawful. Laws exist to protect rights, not feelings.
  • “I didn’t even get a warning!” There is no legal requirement that a company warn you or go through any progressive disciplinary system. And the fact that the company did not follow its own policies and procedures in connection with your termination is only relevant if those polices were applied in a way that discriminates against a particular type, category, or demographic of people.
  • “I quit but technically I was in a hostile work environment so I still want to pursue legal action.” Hostile work environment does not mean that you felt it was hostile, mean, uncomfortable. Hostile work environment means that the situation involved objectively REALLY, REALLY ugly, egregious, hateful, bad misconduct tied to i.e. race, age, sex, religion, etc.

Now, perhaps you are starting to get the picture. Legally wrongful is not the same thing as unfair. Do I say all of this because I am a terrible jerk faced meanie who wants to crush your spirits? No. To the contrary: We pursue egregious cases against corporate bad actors. We pursue cases where people’s legal rights have been violated. We do not pursue cases where there is no legal violation and, instead, the matter is purely a workplace grievance (unfairness as opposed to illegality). So if you are reading this, and you have a better sense of which category your matter falls into, and you realize that you probably do not have an actual case, that already saves you the trouble of contacting our firm.

Are there other firms you can contact that will pursue virtually every employment grievance in an effort to get a relatively quick $10,000 or $20,000 settlement? Sure. But that’s not us.

And on an even higher level: You have to be accountable for your happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life. And work – for most of us – is a big part of life. Because most of us have to work, make money, and pay the bills. And we spend 8, 10, or 12+ hours a day working, 5 days a week. For years. For decades. Many folks go through a string of jobs where they are absolutely miserable. And, having grown up working class in a small town, I understand that sometimes and some places there just aren’t that many options.

But I see so many people who do have options who – nonetheless – just go from one miserable job to another. And basically each time, they leave another job and they think something is so unfair. They want to pursue something. They sink so much time and energy into being aggrieved at bosses, managers, colleagues, etc.

It’s one thing if your legal rights have been violated and trampled on. It’s another thing if you are just aggrieved and think something was unfair. In the former, you pursue legal action to right the wrong. But if you are in the later situation? Maybe you let it go. Maybe you move on. Maybe you find a better way to navigate the work world. Maybe … maybe you start your own business. That’s what I did. That’s what my dad did. That’s what my grandfather did.

Jonathan Pollard

Jonathan Pollard is a prominent lawyer and writer. He is the founder of Pollard PLLC, a law firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida. Pollard and his colleagues primarily represent employees and executives in all types of high stakes employment litigation. The Firm can be reached at 954-332-2380. a