Employment Matters

In Nebraska, as long as you don't have a contract prohibiting such an action, you can be fired for almost any reason, or no reason at all. There are cases where firing is illegal, and they are listed below. In the event you are fired without cause, and you do not fit one of the exceptions outlined below, your only remedy is to file for unemployment.


While many people have a strong work ethic and are embarrassed to file for unemployment, it is simply akin to using an insurance policy that you've already paid for - an insurance policy to which all Nebraska employers are required to contribute.

* Unemployment taxes are paid by all employers and are for the benefit of those unfortunate people who find themselves out of work without just cause.
* If you are fired for a cause, you are likely entitled to unemployment benefits as well, however you will have a waiting period of around seven to nine weeks.
* There are rare circumstances, when someone is fired for gross misconduct, that they are completely precluded from recovery of any unemployment benefits.

In order to qualify for unemployment you generally need to be actively seeking employment and be physically able to work. If you are unable to work, other benefits such as private disability or Social Security, may apply.

An occasionally available exception is if you have a contract for a specified term.

* Teachers often have such a contract, which precludes their termination without cause and without procedural protections. (In Nebraska and many other states this is mandated by statute. For example: Nebraska Revised Statute 79-1234 - 79-1239 )
* Union members also generally have protection and procedural safeguards against termination.

The majority of jobs do not have such safeguards. And although many jobs have a handbook or disciplinary policy, which has been deemed to be a part of the contract of employment, most have limiting language -- "The company reserves the right to terminate your employment for any reason ..." -- which keeps the handbook or policy from being an enforceable contract. Thus even if an employee has worked long-term, they likely have little protection against termination. For this reason we have to look to other laws.

If you are going to have a viable case in the area of discrimination, most generally your claim must fit one of the suspect classes for discrimination. In matters of employment, discrimination based on

* race,
* color,
* national origin,
* religion,
* sex (including pregnancy),
* disability,
* marital status,or
* age (over 40) is prohibited.

Generally discrimination laws only apply to employers who have more than 15 employees. However, this can be company-wide and not simply your location.

As an administrative prerequisite to filing a federal lawsuit, you must first file a charge of discrimination. You should not delay, as the time to file is very limited. If you are working in Nebraska, this can be done by contacting the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. Their web site explains the process. Other states have similar organizations.

If you think you have a case, please fill out our Employment Matters Contact Form, and we'll contact you to set up an appointment.

In some circumstances, if you need to take time off for a serious medical condition, or to care for a family member suffering from a serious medical condition or following the birth of a child, you are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C.A. ยงยง 2601 et. seq. The FMLA applies only to employers with minimum of 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. The act only applies to employees who have worked for the Company for at least twelve (12) months and at least 1,250 hours during the prior twelve (12) months.

If the Act applies, employees may take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid family medical leave. The employer must return you to the same position and not deprive you of benefits of employment. The act is very specific as to its protections and as to qualifying events. Thus it is best to discuss the specifics of your situation with an attorney.

You are also protected if you oppose an unlawful employment practice, such as what you perceive as discrimination, a possible violation of workplace safety or many other state or federal regulatory requirements. If in fact you have been disciplined as a result of your opposition to violations of the law by your employer, you are generally protected.

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