Fewer than 3 per cent of wrongful termination complaints are resolved in court, and thus settlement amounts in the public record account for only a small fraction of cases. In the overwhelming majority of disputes, the results of a suit and settlement amounts are unknown.
What is Wrongful Termination?
"Wrongful termination" refers to a variety of circumstances leading to an illegal termination, including retaliatory discharges (common among whistle-blowers), some form of discrimination (frequently gender, age or race), a breach employment contract, sexual harassment and other illegal acts. In some cases, even an employee-at-will has rights related to "implied contracts" that are often based on company manuals and policy. The laws related to establishing a claim on these or other grounds vary considerably from state to state.
Few Settlements are Public
The actual number of unlawful termination cases is not known. The Public Law Research Institute cites research indicating that only 3 per cent of complaints filed ever reach a jury, and thus, settlement amounts in the public record are hardly representative of the majority of cases. When a case does make it to a trial, roughly half are found in favour of the plaintiff.
Components of a Settlement
There are three major components in a settlement. Compensatory damages include monetary losses such as back pay, the cost of finding a new job and so on. Punitive damages may be payable to plaintiffs in certain cases where there was a violation of public policy by the employer (demanding that an employee break the law, for example). Damages for emotional distress can be recovered in cases involving discrimination or retaliatory terminations. Plaintiffs may also be compensated for legal expenses.
How Much is Awarded?
Settlement amounts known via public record are often substantial and can range from £65,000 to £0.6 million or more. The amounts vary widely according to the type of complaint and the circumstances involved. It is important to keep in mind that those figures are based on the few cases that reach the public record and may not represent the "average" settlement amount.
Do I Have a Claim?
Even your own lawyer will need time to figure that out, so don't try to make a determination on your own. If you suspect that you have been subjected to an unlawful termination, get legal advice and do it quickly. There may be statues of limitations related to making your complaints.
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