Because Nevada is an at-will employment state, an employer here is free to fire employees as it sees fit, regardless of whether the employee has done something to deserve losing the job. But state and federal laws provide numerous exceptions to this general rule by defining when a fired employee has a cause of action for wrongful termination. Generally speaking, laws related to wrongful termination are designed to prevent discriminatory, retaliatory, or abusive behavior by employers.
The wrongful termination cause of action isn’t based on a single statute or rule. Instead, a claim for wrongful termination needs to be grounded in a specific legal protection granted by state or federal law.
Federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination
Although not labeled “wrongful termination” laws, a range of federal civil rights laws have the effect of defining a range of discriminatory employment behavior that would qualify as wrongful termination. Here are a few examples:
- Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., an employer is prohibited from firing an employee on the basis of the employee’s race ,color, religion, sex, national origin, or pregnancy (including conditions related to pregnancy).
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq., prohibits discrimination against workers who are age 40 or older.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., prohibits employment discrimination against employees with disabilities.
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s genetic information.
In addition to prohibiting discrimination, these statutes also prevent employers from retaliating against employees who raise concerns about potential violations. Numerous other statutes also protect employees who come forward with information about an employer’s unlawful behavior. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees who notify the Securities and Exchange Commission about an employer’s violation of federal securities laws.
Generally speaking, these laws only apply to employers over a certain size, and they impose certain other technical requirements for complaints to be raised. In some cases the rules vary for employees of federal agencies. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a good resource for information about federal employment laws.
Nevada wrongful termination laws
Nevada law adds to the protections granted by federal law in a number of important areas. NRS 613.330 expands on the federally protected categories to also prohibit employment discrimination based on an employee’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who use service animals to assist with a disability. Other laws prohibit employment decisions based on some employees’ credit information and otherwise lawful activities outside of work hours. Like federal laws, state laws have limits and only apply to certain employers. The Nevada Equal Rights Commission provides information about the state’s employment laws.
Contract law is another state source of wrongful termination lawsuits. One reason employers often ask employees to sign an agreement that includes language defining their relationship as “at-will” is because a contract can otherwise change the at-will nature of the relationship. Under Nevada law, an employer who contractually promises an employee that a job is guaranteed for a period of time cannot freely fire the employee without complying with the contract’s terms. If an employment contract is in writing, it might have mechanisms for ending the relationship early. But quite often wrongful termination arises when employment contracts aren’t written down—that is, they are agreed to orally, or they arise through implication. An employment contract might exist if a manager tells an employee that her job is secure through a certain date, or if an employee handbook describes a limited set of circumstances where an employee can be fired.
We are here for Las Vegas workers
Laws governing wrongful termination have complex contours. If you have questions about how a federal or state law might apply to your situation, the experienced attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez are here to help. For a free consultation with an attorney, call us today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contact page.