What Exactly Is Wrongful Termination?
Most people do not use the words wrongful termination the way a lawyer uses that term. People often think that wrongful termination is the same as “unfair” termination from a job, or arbitrary and abusive use of power by a supervisor. Arbitrary or unfair terminations are not necessarily “wrongful” or illegal in Hawaii. When lawyers talk about wrongful termination, we mean illegal termination.
A termination is illegal if it violates the specific laws regulating the employment relationship. In Hawaii, most employment is “at-will”, which means that either side – the employer or the employee – is entitled to end the employment relationship at any time for any reason or for no reason – unless that reason is an illegal one.
Illegal reasons include race, sex or other forms of discrimination and whistleblowing – terminating someone because they insist that their employer follow the law or the employee goes to a State to protest the failure of the employer to follow the law.
Remedies In Hawaii For Wrongful Termination
Hawaii law provides two primary remedies for wrongful termination. The Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Act is a statutory remedy. Hawaii law also allows a wrongfully terminated employee to file a common law claim for the tort of wrongful termination. The Hawaii Whistleblower Act provides for attorney’s fees, and also compensates the employee for actual losses or injury. The tort claim for wrongful termination allows an employee to ask for punitive damages against an employer.
The largest employment verdict in Hawaii history was a case in which David Simons represented a woman who had been fired after she worked for the City and County of Honolulu for 18 years. The jury found that she had been fired because she insisted that the City follow a federal law.
The jury awarded her $1,025,000 in lost wages and $2,000,000 for her general damages for having lost her career, and a total of $3,025,000.
General damages are damages that make up for the emotional loss, the loss of enjoyment of life, the inability to be able to send your children to college because you no longer have an income, and the loss of your social identity, friendship and self esteem that comes with losing a job. Learn what to do after you are wrongly fired or laid off.