When Do You Have a Wrongful Termination Case?
California law protects employees from wrongful termination in the workplace. If you believe that you were terminated for reasons of discrimination, for your moral integrity, or for other valid reasons, a lawyer may be able to help you win a wrongful termination case.
Any worker who is relieved of their job in a manner that contravenes their employment contract, or for discriminatory reasons, may have a legal case for wrongful termination. California allows employers to hire employees at will: they can fire them without notice, whenever they choose. The law in California, however, makes it illegal for employers to terminate employees in certain circumstances. If your employment is terminated for any of these reasons, a wrongful termination claim may be viable, and you may win lost wages, and other compensation.
Termination that goes against the provisions of your contract
While the at will employment law of the state gives employers the right to send employees away when they need to do so, employers limit their rights in this area when they voluntarily promise tenure for a stated period of time. They may also place contractual restrictions on their ability to fire employees in some cases.
If the terms of your employment contain provisions that you believe your employer broke, you may have an enforceable claim likely to stand up in a court of law.
An employment contract doesn’t need to be a formal, printed statement. It can be an oral agreement, or even a clause in an employee handbook. A situation involving breach of employment contract by an employer can give you leverage to claim lost wages, benefits, and even a severance package.
Termination based on discrimination
Employers in California are not permitted by law to fire employees for reasons based on race, religion, gender or gender identity, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, disability, political beliefs, or status as a sufferer of domestic violence.
If you are of the view that your termination rose from perception that you belonged to a protected group, you may be able to bring a discrimination lawsuit for monetary damages.
Termination in retaliation
The law does not permit employers to fire employees for simply trying to take advantage of their employee rights. For example, an employee who is fired for putting in a worker’s compensation claim, for applying for leave for jury duty, or for complaining about underpayment of wages or tips, is likely to have a strong case. California offers more protections in this area than nearly any other state.
Termination based on refusal to break the law
No employer in California is allowed to terminate employees for resisting calls to indulge in illegal behavior in the workplace. If an employee is fired for refusing to make untruthful statements to an IRS auditor about the company’s finances, for instance, it would be wrongful termination. It would also be wrongful for an employer to terminate an employee for being a whistleblower.
While there may be no specific laws that prohibit such terminations, the larger principle is that acting lawfully, or resisting a call to perform an illegal action, is not suitable basis for termination.
Employees may have other grounds for legal action against an employer in these circumstances. An employee who is subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace and is fired as a result, may have a case against being fired for harassment and retaliation, but also have a case for personal injury. If you were made promises before being hired, and were terminated for demanding compliance, you may have a fraud claim, in addition to the wrongful termination claim.
The laws governing wrongful termination can be complicated to navigate. Speaking to an experienced employment lawyer should be your first step in the event of unfair termination. A lawyer is likely to be able to help you objectively go over the facts of your case, identify the strongest areas to base claims on, and receive the compensation that you deserve.