Wrongful Discharge

Wrongful discharge is an important issue for employees and employers.

A wrongful discharge is a discharge in violation of law−a discharge taken for an unlawful reason. Wrongful discharge claims may be based on a wide range of legal protections and factual scenarios.

Wrongful Discharge Law

Pursuant to federal civil rights and employment law, an employer cannot discharge an employee based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, disability, or religion.

An employer cannot discharge an employee in retaliation for lawful conduct under federal civil rights and employment law. An employer may not discharge an individual because she:

  • (1) Opposed discrimination under law, i.e. filed an informal complaint of race discrimination with her employer; or
  • (2) Participated in an employment proceeding by filing a charge of discrimination, assisting, testifying or participating in any investigation, litigation, or proceeding under the applicable employment law.

An employer may not discharge an individual because he or she requested and/or received:

  • (1) A reasonable employment accommodation for the employee’s religion, religious belief, practices, or observances;
  • (2) A reasonable accommodation for a disability; or
  • (3) Family and medical leave.

Pursuant to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act [CADA], an employer may not discharge an employee on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or ancestry. The CADA prohibits the discharge of an employee based on the marital status of the employee or because the employee:

  • (1) Is a victim of domestic abuse; or
  • (2) Participated in lawful off-duty conduct.

A wrongful discharge claim may exist when the discharge claim is based on:

  • (1) a valid contract between the employee and employer, either written or oral;
  • (2) a violation of public policy, i.e. the employee was discharged for exercising a public right or duty;
  • (3) the employee’s refusal to perform an unlawful act;
  • (4) a violation of the employer’s mandatory employment policies, including but not limited to disciplinary and discharge policies; and
  • (5) the employer’s violation of a federal or state law other than an anti-discrimination law.

Under federal civil rights laws and Colorado law, a wrongful discharge claim may be based on a constructive discharge. In general, a constructive discharge exists when an employee resigns because the working conditions are so intolerable that a reasonable person in the exact situation would have no other choice than to resign.


Murray Law welcomes the opportunity to provide counsel and legal representation to an individual, serving in any position of employment, or employer, confronting the legal consequences of a discharge action in employment. Please contact Steven Murray at 720-600-6642.

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