The employer-employee relationship is established through an employment contract. This contract creates an employee’s employment status. Sometimes, an employer may terminate this contract, or a service agreement, without giving a proper reason. In such cases, you may be eligible to receive compensation for what is known as “wrongful termination.” When your employment status experienced a change as a result of being fired, there are certain steps that you should take to fix this change in your employment status.
How to respond to an unfavorable change in employment status
When reacting to your employer after a change in employment status due to being fired or asking about the reason for the change in your employment status, the following points should be kept in mind:
- Employers often offer a severance package in exchange for signing a “general release.” This would usually release them of all legal liability for unlawful terminations, so hold off on signing this until you can consult a lawyer.
- Ask questions about the reason for the change in your employment status. If you receive a direct answer, accept it and move on. If the answer is not satisfactory, you may have grounds to sue for unfair dismissal.
- The first step upon leaving the office after a change in your employment status should be to consult a lawyer. Seeking an immediate attorney consultation after such a change in your employment status will help you plan your future actions.
- The lawyer can help you draft a formal complaint that you can send to the Human Resources department of your former firm. Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond before escalating the situation.
- If there is no response, or if the response is unsatisfactory, send a legal notice to your former employer stating your intent to initiate legal action. This notice can include the damages that you are seeking, which can include, but are not limited to:
- Back Pay
- Lost Benefits
- Immediate Losses
- Injunctive Relief
- Punitive Damages
- Severance Package
- Retrenchment Compensation
- Health Insurance
- If there is still no response, you can file a suit for wrongful termination in a Labour Court. The Court can order your former employer to restitute you for the losses incurred.
Laws relating to employment status in India
There are many laws in India that relate to the employment status and protection of workers. The main laws in this regard are the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, and the Trade Unions Act, 1926.
- The Industrial Disputes Act governs any dispute or difference between employers and employees, or between employers and workmen, or amongst workmen, which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of employment of any person.
- This would include both the conditions of hiring as well as changes in employment status as a result of firing workers.
- Section 9(c) of the Act provides for grievance redressal committees, which may be used to address issues that employees have with their employment status and conditions.
- The Act also provides for a Board of Conciliation through Sections 4 and 5, which acts as an external body that resolves disputes relating to employment status in methods other than that of traditional litigation.
- The Workmen’s Compensation Act was mainly brought into force to protect the rights of workers who were injured in the course of their duty. Oftentimes, employers fire injured employees to avoid having to compensate them for their injuries.
- Due to this, the Workmen’s Compensation Act is relevant while discussing employment status.
- The Act establishes that the employer would be liable to compensate their employees for injuries sustained during the course of their work.
- It also codifies the metrics to calculate such compensation. The spirit of the legislation protects unfair changes in employment status.
- Trade unions have a long history of protecting employment status and ensuring better working conditions for all workers. The Trade Unions Act continues this tradition and cements the right of workers to unionize to protect their employment status.
What is at-will employment?
“At-will employment” is a practice through which employers can hire and fire their workers, as the name suggests, at will. Jurisdictions that recognize at-will employment do not require employers to give reasons for terminating employment.
- India, for the most part, does not recognize at-will employment. Even if an at-will employment clause exists in the original contract, the employer will still be issued a show-cause notice. They also cannot terminate the employee without any prior intimation.
- At-will employers also cannot fire people on grounds such as race, religion, gender, etc. The show-cause notice issued by the Courts seeks to avoid this.
- Since the employment is “at-will,” the ability to terminate exists for both sides. Employees under such an arrangement may also change their employment status at will.
- However, such contracts often have confidentiality clauses or non-compete clauses that make it harder to find job prospects for a certain period after the change in employment status.
How can a labour lawyer help me?
- Labour lawyers are well-versed in the details of the labour laws applicable in their jurisdiction. A competent labour lawyer can not only help you receive compensation for the loss of salary due to the change in employment status, but they can also help you get compensation for all other benefits that you may have lost.
- Additionally, it is important to set a precedent for protecting workers. A labour lawyer will protect your rights, as well as the rights of future employees, by ensuring that a legal precedent exists that prevents wrongful termination in all possible scenarios.
- As labour law is a vast and complicated field, the presence of a labour lawyer will also ensure that you do not miss any formalities and lose your compensation on the basis of a technicality.
If your employment status is changed to your detriment, either by firing or by an unjustified demotion, consult a labour lawyer to help you receive compensation. For this, remember to keep your employment contract or service agreement handy, as there may be clauses in them that can alter the outcome of your case.