Wrongful Discharge

The term “wrongful discharge” can refer to a variety of legal claims. At its core, however, that term generally refers to a claim that an employer terminated a person’s employment in violation of public policy.

An employee asserting such a wrongful-discharge claim must show that his/her employer directed that and/or other employees to violate a statute or regulation relating to the public health, safety, or welfare; undermined a clearly expressed public policy relating the employee’s basic responsibility as a citizen; or prevented the plaintiff from exercising an important work-related right or privilege. In addition, a claim can arise when an employer prohibited the employee from engaging in conduct that is protected by public policy, or punished an employee for blowing the whistle on conduct protected by public policy.

In addition, the plaintiff must establish that (a) s/he refused to comply with the employer’s directive because s/he reasonably believed the directive violated public policy; (b) the employer was aware or reasonably should have been aware that the plaintiff’s refusal to comply with that directive was based on such a reasonable belief; and (c) the employer fired the plaintiff because s/he refused to comply with that directive.

These are not the only kinds of contract and public-policy claims that employees can bring in Colorado. These illustrate the kinds of claims that can be made.