Losing your job is a traumatic experience, regardless of how it happens. In Arizona, unexpected termination does not even have to come with a reason. When it comes to wrongful termination Arizona labor laws can seem unclear. As a worker, though, you do have rights. There is such a thing as wrongful termination, even with Arizona’s right-to-work laws.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
Can you be fired from a job for no reason?
Like the other 27 right-to-work states in the U.S., employment in Arizona is contractual in nature (Title 23-1501). This is also known as “at will” employment. States with at-will employment are often called “right-to-work” states. This means that a contractual relationship between employer and employee can be terminated at any time. You can also be fired without any reason.
There may be exceptions to this, including:
- Employees who have written contracts that lay out a certain length of employment
- Contracts that restrict an employer’s ability to fire employees
- Termination that violates the Arizona Civil Rights Act or the United States Civil Rights Act
- Termination of employees whose employment is protected by the Constitution of Arizona or the Constitution of the United States
What are the basics of Arizona employee rights?
Even though Arizona is a right-to-work state, it may be illegal for an employer to fire someone for many reasons. These include the following.
The definition of discrimination under Arizona statute Title 41-1463 makes it illegal:
“to discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to the individual’s compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin or on the basis of disability.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expands this list of the types of discrimination to include genetic information, pregnancy, and retaliation.
Other federal and Arizona termination regulations
If an employer fires an employee for any of the following reasons, the employee may have a claim against an employer for wrongful termination:
- Refusing to act or omit something in violation of a law
- Acting as a whistleblower to inform management of an employer’s violation of the law
- Filing workers’ compensation claims
- Attending mandatory jury service (Title 21-236)
- Voting (Title 16-1012)
- Joining a union (or not joining a union) (Title 23-1302)
- Serving in the military, including the National Guard (Title 26-167 and 168)
- Refusing to pay extra fees as a condition of employment (not including some licensing or training fees) (Title 23-202)
- Refusing to purchases supplies or other goods as a condition of employment (Title 23-203)
- Attending court proceedings in which the employee is a victim (Title 8-420 and 13-4439)
In addition, Arizona terminations that violate any of the following federal or state acts may be considered wrongful termination:
- Arizona Civil Rights Act
- Federal Civil Rights Act under Title VII
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Family Medical Leave Act
- National Labor Relations Act
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Agricultural Employment Relations Act
What should I do if I was wrongfully terminated?
If you believe you are the victim of wrongful termination, start by keeping track of every communication you have with your former employer. It can help your case to supply any evidence of discrimination or violation of your rights. As often as you can, ask your employer to give you information in writing. Keep both printed and electronic copies if possible.
However, it is important to note that private sector employers have a right to access an employee’s work-related email, desk area, computer system and files, and voicemail. Employers can search these during and after employment. The employer may use anything found in these areas against an employee if they file a wrongful termination claim.
Make sure you get your last paycheck
If your employment is terminated, know your rights regarding your final wages owed. Your employer must provide you with your last paycheck within seven working days or at the end of the next regular pay period, whichever is sooner (Title 23-353).
Employers who do not meet this requirement may have to pay triple the owed wages (Title 23-355).
Know your rights
Wrongful termination Arizona statute of limitations requires that you file a claim of wrongful termination through the Arizona Civil Rights Division (ACRD) of the attorney general’s office within 180 days of your termination.
Generally, you have two years to file a lawsuit through other channels. Essentially, you have some time to consider your rights and decide on a course of action.
Temper your responses
You may feel helpless when you lose your job. This can be a challenging time. You may want to act out of anger or frustration towards your former employer.
Do not send threatening letters or make accusatory phone calls. These can be used against you if you do go forward with a wrongful termination claim. Allow the facts of your case to do the talking and remain straightforward and professional in all of your communications. As noted, keep these in writing as often as possible.
Seek legal guidance
Wrongful termination cases can be complex and difficult to prove. You will need skilled legal aid on your side.
The Arizona Legal Center does not take on wrongful termination cases, but we do offer initial guidance. We can also help you learn about your options and resources, including potential access to low-cost representation in court.
If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated and are looking for free legal guidance, contact us today. Our volunteer attorneys can help you figure out if you have a claim and outline your next steps.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.