Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Feb 7, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Wrongful termination can happen to both private and public employees in the United States. For both public and private sector employees there are laws against hostile workplace environments, harassment at work, and prohibitions against being fired without cause. Public sector employees have greater protections under the U.S. Constitution. This is because when the government is the employer, the government must not violate any constitutional rights of its employees, just as the government may not violate the constitutional rights of citizens. In other words, a different set of additional rules apply in wrongful termination cases where the government or a government agency was the employer.

Statutory Protection against Wrongful Termination

For public sector employees, the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, national origin, political affiliation or sexual orientation. The act was originally written to reform the federal civil service system. It created the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Together these offices manage human resources in the federal government. They protect employees’ rights to employment and promotions without discrimination and harassment. They also give federal workers the right to organize in unions and dispute employer practices.

The CSRA applies to hiring practices and termination procedures. It, along with the Whistleblower Protection Act, prevents employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination or point out other misconduct in the federal workplace. In the event that these laws do not provide complete protection in the workplace, they give victims a legal basis to sue. Each law has civil remedies for employees who can prove they were terminated as retaliation or for other illegal reasons. The remedies can range from reinstatement into the same or similar position to monetary damages.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Constitutional Protections for Public Employees

Public sector or government employees have additional protection under the Constitution. These protections apply to federal, state and local workers. Generally, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the government from depriving anyone of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law. This was made clear in the U.S. Supreme Court case Cleveland v. Board of Education. The court held that government employees are considered to have a property interest in their jobs, and the right to due process places significant restrictions on arbitrary dismissals unrelated to job performance.

The Fourth Amendment is best known for protecting the public from unlawful searches and seizures by the police. However, it applies in the workplace as well. A government employer cannot use material taken from an employee in termination procedures. This extends to email traffic and other correspondence. There are a few limited exceptions to this prohibition. Usually, these exceptions have to do with public safety or national security.

Additionally, the First Amendment protects employees from being wrongfully fired for speech, writing or opinions expressed at work. The speech is protected if it is related to your status as a citizen and is not a matter of public concern. For instance if your email or blog complains about your homeowner’s association, your boss cannot fire you if he or she happens to be president of that association. On the other hand, if you are a postal service employee and your email or blog contains sensitive information or criticisms about processes in the service, this could be just cause for termination.

Getting Help

If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, contact an employment attorney today. An employment attorney can review the facts of your claim and advise you on the best steps to take in order to resolve your dispute.