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Premise: in my experience when you are a solo-freelancer working for a corporation who does have their own lawyers and resources to fight against you, a win is very unlikely (I have even been told this fact face-to-face). Nonetheless I would like to have a second opinion.

I am a professional developer ("programmer") and I was working for a US-based company (remote position) as a freelancer (i.e. as a company). The contract was meant to last until the end of year 2017 but they terminated the collaboration (by email, not even over a call and with absolutely no notice ).

As any contract, termination conditions exist. In this specific case (I quote):

<< The company engaging with the contractor has the right to terminate the agreement after several warnings have been issues >>

However, no FORMAL warning has ever been issued. All I got is:

  • A Slack message expressing some "generic concern" (after I communicated some personal struggles and that I was aware my productivity level was not at the top for the last 2 weeks)
  • I've been told I made one mistake in my job, which I believe it can happen

Nonetheless, the company I am considering suing has sent out a cold email, announcing that they (and the clients the project was committed to) would void the collaboration for poor performance and lack of commitment.

I know I could use Slack records and even (very few, unfortunately) emails as proof. However, Slack as many other business apps is a "black box" so I have no way to access those records.

When I expressed my concerns about this unfair decision, my message was ignored.

My final question is:

  • can I legally put pressure on the company to get a compensation? (e.g. write an article explaining what they did)
  • Is it worth suing them (they're US-based), considering the cost or the legal action would not come cheap (I guess)? As a side note I am based in Europe (I avoid putting the country here, as a means to protect my privacy)
  • Does this company have offices that you worked in during your employment, or did you telework for an office that was not in your country? If the latter case, are you aware of what State in the United States the office you worked for resided? – hszmv Dec 1 '17 at 15:45
  • @hszmv only telework. Their contact address refers to the state of Virginia – dragonmnl Dec 1 '17 at 16:23
  • Then I would suggest that you cut your losses. Virginia is a "Right to Work" state which means that the employer may fire the employee for any reason without cause UNLESS the employee is being fired for being a member of a protected class (race, religion, sex, and the like). The burden of proof that your firing was illegal in Virginia will be on you, and lack of justification is not illegal. – hszmv Dec 1 '17 at 17:00
  • @hszmv your comment looks like an answer. Please make it one. – Dale M Dec 1 '17 at 17:14
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Can I legally put pressure on the company to get a compensation? (e.g. write an article explaining what they did)

Writing an article about being fired doesn't have anything to do with the fact that writing that article is legal or not. Sure, you can write an article - or likely an opinion piece - about being fired for what you say are unjust reasons and hope it results in pressure on your old company. This happens all the time in the press; that's what Op-ed and opinion pieces - and also "objective" journalism - do every day. A big corporation isn't going to care about some bad PR from a disgruntled freelancer. Bad PR is not legal pressure.

So consider the answer to your last question Can I be sued for warning of a potential crowdfunding scam? which is an outline of defamation law.

If you're not very careful (and the publication's editor, if there is one and if they are not well-versed in defamation law), you will defame someone at the company (publish provably false facts) in your article and they (and/or the compnay) can take action against you. And self-publishing a piece has even greater risks of defamation, because it's likely you don't know the boundaries of defamation.

Defamation is complex (especially in an international context) and turns on many details of the facts, how they were published, and more. But: how much money do you have to defend yourself against a libel suit?

Another point to consider is this: even if you don't clearly libel someone at the company, the company can still take action against you. They can retaliate against bad PR with a lawsuit. You say they have lawyers and can afford it, and you're alone. Can you afford to defend yourself?

Is it worth suing them (they're US-based), considering the cost or the legal action would not come cheap (I guess)? As a side note I am based in Europe (I avoid putting the country here, as a means to protect my privacy)

That's entirely up to you. No one here will advise you about that. Only you can make that decision, or your lawyer can advise you on that. Talk to an attorney who might take on such an action, and one involving international jurisdictions (a US state and the unnamed European - possibly EU - country).

Aside from potential libel, the other important aspect is to determine what legally can be done internationally in terms of defamation, both with any potential action you take and what actions the company can take against you. That will be determined by different laws and international agreements between the US (and possibly the state) and the unnamed (possibly EU) European country.

The minor aspect of your dispute is your termination and the employment contract:

The company engaging with the contractor has the right to terminate the agreement after several warnings have been issues.... However, no FORMAL warning has ever been issued.

That's legally vague enough to allow the company to fire you at any time. (Update from comments: Virginia is a "Right to Work" state which means that the employer may fire the employee for any reason without cause unless the employee is being fired for being a member of a protected class, i.e.race, religion, sex, etc.)

Again, international jurisdictions come into play concerning labor laws. Can you find a lawyer who will take on an international labor dispute?

  • The U.S. has what is called "Libel Tourism" laws. The US will not enforce any foreign defamation judgement against a resident unless a defamation judgement against them could be enforced in their court of law. – hszmv Dec 1 '17 at 17:03
  • @hszmv could you explain a bit better? (I'll accept this answer as I see it was last edited before the new answer) – dragonmnl Dec 1 '17 at 20:28
  • Basically American defimation law is very much in favor of the defendant and it's very difficult for the accuser to win. Because of this there was a trend to go to other countries to use their legal systems to get defimation suits against US entities with a more favorable outcome. Because of this, the United States will no longer enforce judgements against people who cannot win the case in the states. – hszmv Dec 1 '17 at 21:46
  • @hszmz Yes, "American defimation law is very much in favor of the defendant ..." You have it backwards. The plaintiff in a libel action will be the company or an individual in Virginia, and dragonmnl could be the defendant in a libel action if he publishes an article that defames. He is not a US resident, so American libel law does not benefit him as a defendant. – BlueDogRanch Dec 1 '17 at 22:18
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Given this is telework, you were officially worked in the state where the office resided, which is Virginia, for Jurisdiction purposes. Virginia is a "Right to Work" state which means that the employer may fire the employee for any reason without cause UNLESS the employee is being fired for being a member of a protected class (race, religion, sex, and the like). The burden of proof that your firing was illegal in Virginia will be on you, and lack of justification is not illegal.

There is nothing preventing you from reaching out to a VA employment law firm for consultation, but I doubt that the case is likely to be winnable.

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