Employees are protected by law from being wrongfully terminated due to color, national origin, religion, disability and pregnancy. Other forms of wrongful termination include contracted employees who are terminated before their contracts have expired.
Most employer-employee relationships are "at-will," which means the employee may be terminated at any time for any legal reason. This does not give the employer the ability to terminate employees in a discriminatory manner. If any at-will employee is terminated in a way that is a violation of federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws, the employer could end up in legal trouble.
There are federal anti-discrimination laws that protect employees from being discharged from their jobs due to color, sex, religion, disability, age, pregnancy, race or national origin. Most state laws mirror the federal laws and may even expand upon federal law.
Additionally, if an employee is a contract employee and is terminated before the expiration of the contract, the employee may be able to bring a lawsuit for breach of employment contract and wrongful termination. A wrongful discharge suit may also be brought against an employer if the employer retaliated against an employee for exercising his rights, supported by public policy. If an employee is discharged because he failed to perform an illegal act at the demand of an employer, that is also considered wrongful termination.