Do I Have A Wrongful Termination Case If I Got Unemployment Benefits?

One of the most common questions I get asked is: Do I have a wrongful termination claim because I was awarded unemployment benefits?  Oftentimes, people get confused with the difference between unemployment benefits and the process used to decide if someone is awarded benefits, and wrongful termination claims and what’s necessary to have a valid claim.  Unemployment benefits and lawsuits are completely different though, and this will shed some light on the key differences.

Terminated Without Just Cause?

The main cause of this confusion is likely the terminology that the unemployment benefits office uses when it awards benefits. When the unemployment benefits office, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (“ODJFS”), awards benefits to people, it tells  them that they were “terminated without just cause”,  so they are entitled to unemployment benefits. When people hear the term “terminated without just cause”, they automatically think in their head: “This means I was wrongfully terminated, so I can now sue the company for firing me.” 

Wrongful Termination Must Be Based on Something 

Although this is a logical conclusion to come to, it ignores one huge issue: there’s not really such a thing as a wrongful termination claim. Whenever employment attorneys file wrongful termination lawsuits, it’s wrongful termination based on something. More often than not, it’s a wrongful termination based on race, disability, gender, or age,or some other protected class or characteristic that a company is using to discriminate against an employee.  There can also be wrongful terminations based on public policy, or a wrongful termination because of a breach of an employment contract. 

At-Will Employment Can Be Difficult to Overcome

Wrongful termination claims have to be based on something else because of the at-will employment doctrine. The at-will employment doctrine is something that is embedded into employment law. Basically, it says that you can get terminated for any reason at all, or no reason at all, as long as it’s not discriminatory, usually based on Title VII, the ADA, or the FMLA or state anti-discrimination laws, or some other basis that makes the termination illegal. This means you can even get terminated for something that is a lie, or just because your employer doesn’t like you, as long as your employer is not discriminating against you or violating some other law.

Not Getting Unemployment Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have A Case

In the same way that getting unemployment awarded doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a claim for wrongful termination, not getting unemployment doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a claim for wrongful termination either. Like most answers in law, it depends.  If you think you do have a claim and you’re not sure, feel free to contact me and schedule a consultation so I can see what I can do to help.

Do I Have A Wrongful Termination Case If I Got Unemployment Benefits?Click To Tweet

James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.