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Refusal to break the law grounds for wrongful termination

Going to work isn't always the most enjoyable thing people do on a regular day. But regardless of how you feel about your specific job, you probably expect that, at minimum, as long as you go in, do what you're supposed to do and avoid breaking the rules, you will keep your job and collect your paycheck.

If you refuse to follow a rule or do something expected of you, you can wind up getting fired. This would generally not be grounds for a legal complaint. However, such an action could spark a wrongful termination claim if the task you refused to do was illegal.

For example, let's look at a case involving a commercial truck driver who was wrongfully terminated. According to a lawsuit he filed, the driver was asked to complete an unscheduled delivery. He refused to do so, citing that it would require him to violate federal Hours of Service regulations that limit the number of hours a commercial trucker can be on duty.

The driver was fired the following day.

The driver, claiming the firing was retaliatory and therefore wrongful, filed a lawsuit. Federal employment laws are in place to protect people from being fired or retaliated against because of a refusal to engage in activities that violate public policy.

The Department of Labor agreed with this argument and ruled in favor of the driver. He was awarded over $276,000 for damages and unpaid wages. His company was also ordered to rehire the driver.

This case illustrates what can happen when a person is wrongfully terminated for refusing to do something that is illegal or unsafe. No one's job should depend on a his or her willingness to violate matters of public policy.

If you feel as though your job has been jeopardized or your rights have been violated as a result of your decision to comply with public policy, you should understand that you may very well have grounds to pursue a legal claim. To learn more about your options, it can be best to consult an attorney practicing employment law.

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