Are You on the Verge of Being Fired?

Warning signs that you may soon get a pink slip.

Yellow small sticky note on an office cork bulletin board that says,  "You are fired."
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The new hire learns all your responsibilities. Being on the chopping block may have nothing to do with performance or attitude. Instead, the company may want your services at a cheaper rate. Enter the new employee, who within weeks has learned everything you do. Ironically, you may have trained him or her. Shapiro puts it this way: "As soon as that person's trained, guess what happens to you?"

[See: 10 Things You Should Do Immediately After Being Fired.]

What are your legal options?

Whether you were expecting to be fired or not, you may wonder what legal recourse is available to you. When it comes to hashing the firing out in court, employers definitely have the upper hand, notes Steven Stern, a Philadelphia-based attorney who specializes in commercial and employment discrimination litigation.

All states except Montana abide by the at-will doctrine, which gives employers the ability to fire employees at any time for any reason. As Stern points out, "it doesn't have to be a good reason. It's only if a person fits into a protected class that they may be protected," he says. Those protected classes, as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which enforces federal discrimination laws, include race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.

If you don't fall into one of those categories but feel that you were wrongly terminated, there are other grounds to sue. For example, you may bring a case based on constructive discharge, which is when a worker is involuntarily forced to resign due to an employer creating a hostile or intolerable work environment. But constructive discharge is more difficult to prove than when an employee is actually discharged, Stern says. "You must show that any reasonable person in the same circumstances would leave their job because the conditions are so onerous."