Wyoming Wrongful Termination Laws
Find out about illegal firings in Wyoming.
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Have you recently lost your job? If so, you might be wondering whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. In Wyoming, as in other states, employees work at will. This means an employee can generally be fired at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all.
But there are some exceptions to the at-will rule. For example, if your Wyoming employer fires you for discriminatory reasons, in violation of an employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising your rights, you may have a legal claim against your employer for wrongful termination.
Every state’s laws on wrongful termination are different. This article covers some of the common legal grounds you might have for suing your employer in Wyoming for wrongful termination. But it’s not a comprehensive list of Wyoming employment rights, which can change as courts issue new rulings and legislators pass or modify laws. To find out the full extent of your legal claims, speak to an experienced Wyoming employment lawyer.
Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee based on a protected characteristic. Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (if the employee is at least 40), disability, citizenship status, or genetic information. However, only employers with a minimum number of employees must comply with these laws. Most types of discrimination are prohibited once an employer has at least 15 employees. However, the minimum is 20 employees for age discrimination and four employees for citizenship status discrimination.
Wyoming law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age (40 and older), or military service or status. Wyoming employers must comply with these laws if they have at least two employees.
These laws also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for asserting your rights. For example, if you complain to your company’s HR department that you believe you were passed over for promotion because of your age, your employer may not discipline or fire you for your complaint. Likewise, your employer cannot fire you for participating in an investigation of a discrimination complaint (no matter who made the complaint), testifying in court, or making other efforts to stop discriminatory practices.
Before filing a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit, you must file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services enforces the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination; the Department has offices in several counties. In many cases, state fair employment practices agencies will record your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal antidiscrimination laws. However, you should check to make sure. If not, you may also have to file a complaint with the EEOC; you can find contact information for the nearest office at the EEOC’s Field Offices page.
Breach of Contract
If you have a written employment contract promising you job security, you are not an at-will employee. Wyoming also recognizes employment contracts based on statements in an employee handbook that an employee relied on or that show the employer's intention to limit its ability to terminate at will. For example, if your employee handbook says that employees will be terminated only for performance or misconduct, you may be entitled to continued employment unless your performance drops or you engage in bad behavior at the workplace.
Wage and Hour Issues
Wyoming's minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. However, Wyoming employers that are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (as most are) must pay their employees the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. These employers must also pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
Although some states require employers to provide meal or rest breaks to employees, Wyoming is not one of them. However, under federal law, employers that choose to provide breaks of 20 minutes or less must generally pay employees for that time. Employers also must pay their employees for any time during which they must work, even if the employer characterizes that time as a “break.”
Time Off Work
State and federal laws give employees the right to take time off work for certain civic obligations and personal responsibilities. Employers may not discipline or fire workers for exercising these rights. In Wyoming, these rights include:
- Military leave. Under federal law, employees have the right to take up to five years of leave to serve in the military, with the right to be reinstated when they return to work. (This law also prohibits discrimination against employees based on their military service, protects employees from discharge without good cause for up to one year after they return from military duty, and provides other protections; see Nolo’s article Taking Military Leave for more information.) Employees in Wyoming who are members of the uniformed services and are called to active duty, training, active state duty, or a qualifying physical exam, are entitled to up to five years of leave, with reinstatement when their military duties are complete. Employees may not be fired without cause for one year after their return.
- Jury duty. In Wyoming, employees are entitled to unpaid leave for jury service. Employers that fire or penalize employees for jury service are subject to special damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
- Voting leave. Employees in Wyoming are entitled to take up to one hour of paid time off (not including meal breaks) to cast their ballots. Employees are not entitled to voting leave if they have at least three consecutive hours of non-work time while the polls are open.
- Family and medical leave. Wyoming employees are protected by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, every year for a serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to care for a new child, or to handle certain practical matters arising out of a family member’s military service. Employees can take up to 26 weeks off in a single year to care for a family member who is seriously injured while serving in the military. Employees who take FMLA leave must be reinstated to the same position once their leave is over. To learn more, see Nolo’s FMLA page.
Other State Claims
- Workers' compensation. Employers may not fire employees for exercising their rights under the state's workers' compensation laws, including filing for benefits.
- Workplace safety. Employers are prohibited from firing employees for reporting violations of workplace safety laws or participating in investigations into workplace safety violations.
- Off-duty conduct. Employers may not fire employees for engaging in the lawful use of tobacco products while off-duty and away from the workplace.
What to Do Next
If you think you were fired illegally, talk to a Wyoming employment lawyer. A lawyer can help you sort through the facts and assess the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also inform you of other state or local claims that you may have in addition to those listed above. Whether you want to try to get your job back, negotiate a severance package, or sue your employer in court, a lawyer can walk you through your options and help you decide on how best to proceed.