Understanding Arkansas Wrongful Discharge Laws:  Retaliatory Discharge

Arkansas is an At-Will Employment State

When it comes to employment, Arkansas is an At-Will State. That means that technically an employer or employee can terminate a working relationship at any time with little or no explanation at all. This frees employers from the costly process of providing severance packages and allows employees to change jobs at any time without facing penalties.

However, that doesn’t mean that employers can terminate an employee for the wrong reasons. Under Arkansas law employment is protected under multiple circumstances. If a company violates Arkansas employment law the terminated employee can sue for compensation, reinstatement, or both.

Retaliatory Termination is Illegal

If termination is used as a punishment—especially for “whistleblowing”—that termination is almost always illegal. And thanks to a recent ruling (which created a powerful precedent) victims of such retaliatory terminations now have another layer of protection as well.

In short, this new protection allows employees to sue for wrongful termination if an employer has retaliated against them for reporting unsafe or illegal procedures at their job even if such violations didn’t actually occur.

Employees No Longer Have to Prove Reported Actions are Violations of the Law

This precedent stems from a court case filed in 2015 in which an individual was terminated by TFS of Gurdon for reporting what she thought to be a violation of federal law. Lawyers for her employer were trying to get the Arkansas court system to deny her wrongful termination lawsuit because she couldn’t prove that the actions she reported were indeed violations.

Her case passed through the system until it reach the Arkansas Court of Appeals where a judge ruled that the victim did not have to provide proof that the incident she reported was actually a violation of the law.

This is good news for employees who have in the past felt pressure to remain silent after witnessing potentially illegal acts or discovering proof of suspicious activities at their jobs. These employees have always been protected by Arkansas employment law (and to some extent federal employment laws) but this added layer of protection will no doubt make the difficult act of speaking up easier.

Additionally, because employers could face additional punishment for wrongfully terminating honest employees who come forward when they spot an alleged violation, this ruling likely makes employers less likely to make rash decisions concerning an employee’s termination in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean that employers won’t still retaliate. In fact, in 2017 over 48% of the 85,000 complaints filled with The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were charges of retaliatory practices.

What to Do if You’ve Been Targeted

If you’ve been punished (up to the point of termination) by your supervisor or your employer after reporting a potential safety hazard or illegal action at work, you have legal options available to you. An experienced Arkansas employment law attorney can help you fight back, reclaim your good name, and seek financial compensation for your loss of income.

Contact the experienced attorneys at the Pfeifer Law Firm for your free consultation. Get in touch online or call (501)374-4440 today.

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