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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the employment termination laws in Iowa and answer the following questions:

  • What Does Wrongful Termination Mean?
  • What Is The Difference Between an “At-Will” Employee and a Contract Employee?
  • How Do I Know If I Was Wrongfully Terminated By My Iowa Employer?

What Does Wrongful Termination Mean?

Getting fired from a job is rarely a pleasant experience. Often employees wonder if they were fired for a reason other than their performance, especially those who feel they’ve performed well at work and their employer gives them vague reason at the time of termination. Confusion and frustration can lead the employee to conclude that he or she was wrongfully terminated. But what is wrongful termination? When we look closer at the law we find that not every firing that feels wrong or unwarranted is against the law in Iowa. In fact, the majority of terminations are well within the legal rights of Iowa employers. Wrongful termination describes a situation when an employer fires an employee for reasons against public and/or company policy.

What Is the Difference Between an “At-Will” Employee and a Contract Employee?

Iowa is an “At-Will” employment state, meaning that an employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason (or no reason at all), and without prior notice. While this may sound unfair towards an employee, most states are “At-Will” employment states as it provides protection for both the employee and employer. Companies that want to give employees more security in order to attract better talent can always opt to provide a contract that stipulates the employee should be able to remain employed as long as certain guidelines are followed and termination cannot occur without adequate steps taken to rectify performance issues, as long as those issues do not violate the employment agreement. Some of these same stipulations are seen with Contract Employees.

Contract Employees are different from At-Will employees in that they are hired by a company for a predetermined amount of time and compensation. Under these employment relationships, the employer is not responsible for providing employer benefits such as taxes, worker’s compensation, Social Security, etc. They are similar to the employment relationship between an independent contractor and an employer.

How Do I Know If I Was Wrongfully Terminated By My Iowa Employer?

Understanding what reasons a firing would be deemed illegal in Iowa is the first step in determining wrongful termination. Reasons for firing an employee that could result in a valid wrongful termination claim fall into one of four categories:

  1. Discriminatory Termination. Simply put, this is termination based on someone’s race, age, gender, national origin, disabilities, pregnancy, citizenship status, marital status, and more.
  2. Violation of an Employment Contract. This occurs when the employer fires the employee in a way that violates the employment contract between the two. An example of this could be that a contract states that an employee was to be paid overtime for hours beyond 40 per week but was never paid those hours and when the employee complained about it his employer fired him.
  3. Retaliation for Certain Protected Actions. This is probably the most common reason for a wrongful termination claim with the occurrence increasing due to issues arising from social media use by employees. Some specific examples include termination for filing a worker’s comp claim, testifying truthfully against your employer, whistleblowing, reporting workplace violations, etc.
  4. Wrongful Termination Due to Time Off Work. While this can be a grey area for scenarios such as a company firing an employee that it felt was taking too much time off or taking time off at inappropriate times, there are specific examples of protected time off that an employee cannot be fired for taking. These include jury duty, military leave of a given period of time, voting, family and medical leave, seeking medical treatment, seeking assistance for domestic violence, and a handful more.

If you feel your termination falls under any one of these scenarios you should immediately seek the guidance of an experienced employment attorney. They can review your claim and help you understand if it holds merit. From there they can assist you in the filing process and bring a lawsuit against your former attorney. You may be able to have your job reinstated, or in most cases recover compensatory damages. If you have any questions about wrongful termination give us a call at 630-324-6666.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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