What Is the Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Termination Case?


In cases involving wrongful termination, the burden of proof is on the employee to prove that their discharge was illegal. It is critical to grasp the essential elements about the burden of proof in order to navigate this intricate legal landscape. Five key factors should be taken into account:

At-Will Employment Presumption

Both the employer and the employee are free to end the employment relationship at any moment, with or without reason, since it is often assumed to be “at-will” in these jurisdictions. Nevertheless, if the worker presents proof that contradicts this assumption, it can be disproven. However, employment law attorney helped in proving it was wrongful for the employer to unfairly dismiss an employee. Claiming wrongful termination requires employees to show that the at-will employment doctrine does not apply.

Establishing a Prima Facie Case

Prima facie, meaning “at first sight” or “on its face” in Latin, is the standard for an employee seeking to begin a wrongful termination lawsuit. The goal here is to provide proof that, if accepted at face value, will bolster an argument. A prima facie case may need proof that the dismissal was motivated by discrimination or retaliation, violated an implied promise of good faith and fair dealing, or was in violation of a particular employment contract.

Discrimination and Retaliation

The burden of evidence frequently changes in cases where an employee claims retaliation or discrimination as the basis for a wrongful termination claim. At the outset, the worker has the burden of proving that they were discriminated against because of a legally protected trait, such as their gender, race, or the fact that they dared to blow the whistle.

After this is proven, the onus may move on the employer to present a valid, non-discriminatory justification for the dismissal. The next step is for the worker to prove that the boss is using the given reason as an excuse to be biased or even retaliatory.

Documenting Evidence

Claims of wrongful termination rely heavily on proof. Documents pertinent to the termination, including but not limited to performance reviews, emails, and employment contracts, should be carefully gathered and preserved by the employee. The employee’s case can be strengthened by creating a timeline and recording any acts of retaliation or discrimination. In addition to bolstering the employee’s claims, well-documented evidence can help fight any possible employer arguments.

Preponderance of the Evidence Standard

In legal proceedings, such as wrongful termination lawsuits, the “preponderance of the evidence” test usually determines who has the burden of proof. The worker is thus required to provide evidence that supports the veracity of their account. This level of proof is lower than the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement. Meeting this level and convincing the trier of fact a judge or jury remains the responsibility of the employee, who must nevertheless offer a convincing argument backed by credible facts.


It is crucial for employees who are pursuing legal redress to grasp the burden of proof in a wrongful termination case. In order to reach the preponderance of the evidence criterion, one must meticulously examine and offer persuasive arguments at each stage, beginning with establishing a prima facie case and continuing through documenting evidence. For assistance navigating the intricacies of wrongful termination cases, employees might benefit greatly from consulting with a seasoned employment attorney.