Losing your job unexpectedly can feel devastating. But, wrongful termination is something that happens everyday. The Center for American Progress reveals that approximately one in five workers in the US have experienced wrongful termination at some point in their careers.
If you are in the state of California, there are laws in place to protect employees from wrongful termination. Before we discuss these laws, we’ll talk about what exactly qualifies as wrongful termination and explore the various grounds for wrongful termination in California.
By understanding these factors, you can gain insight into your rights as an employee and take the necessary steps to seek justice.
Discrimination as Grounds for Wrongful Termination
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated due to discrimination, it’s important to understand the legal grounds for such claims in California. According to wrongful termination lawyer Jeffrey D. Fulton, discrimination as grounds for wrongful termination refers to situations where an employer fires an employee based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age, disability, or religion.
In California, both state and federal laws prohibit employers from engaging in discriminatory practices and provide employees with legal remedies if they’re terminated unlawfully. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of their protected characteristics.
This means that if you can prove that you were fired because of your race, gender, age, disability, or religion, you may have a valid claim for wrongful termination. Additionally, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on these protected characteristics as well.
To establish a claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination, you must show that you were treated less favorably than others who were similarly situated, and that the adverse employment action was motivated by discriminatory intent. You may also need to exhaust administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the relevant government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), before pursuing a lawsuit.
It is important to note that the burden of proof rests on the employee, who must provide evidence to support their claim of wrongful termination due to discrimination. This evidence can include direct evidence, such as discriminatory comments or actions by the employer, or circumstantial evidence, such as a pattern of discriminatory treatment.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated due to discrimination, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced employment attorney who can evaluate the strength of your claim and guide you through the legal process. They can help you gather evidence, file the necessary administrative complaints, and represent your interests in negotiations or litigation.
Retaliation and Wrongful Termination
Retaliation can be a basis for a claim of wrongful termination in California. If you have been fired as a result of engaging in protected activities or asserting your legal rights, you may have a valid claim for retaliation. Under California law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights, such as filing a complaint of discrimination or harassment, participating in an investigation, or reporting illegal activities.
To establish a claim of retaliation, you must show that you engaged in protected activity, that your employer took adverse action against you, and that there’s a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action. Protected activity can include actions such as complaining about discrimination, refusing to participate in illegal activities, or requesting accommodations for a disability.
It is important to note that retaliation claims can be complex, and the burden of proof is on the employee to establish a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. Therefore, it’s crucial to gather evidence such as emails, witness statements, or performance evaluations that support your claim.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated in retaliation for exercising your rights, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney who can evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process.
Violations of Public Policy and Wrongful Termination
When it comes to wrongful termination in California, another important consideration is violations of public policy. Under California law, it’s illegal for an employer to terminate an employee for reasons that go against public policy.
Public policy refers to the general societal norms and values that are considered important for the well-being of the public. If an employer terminates an employee in violation of public policy, it can be considered wrongful termination.
Examples of violations of public policy include retaliating against an employee for reporting workplace safety violations, refusing to engage in illegal activities, or taking protected medical leave.
It’s important to note that public policy violations can be implied or explicit. An explicit violation occurs when a specific law or regulation is violated, such as terminating an employee for reporting sexual harassment. On the other hand, an implied violation occurs when the termination goes against a broader public policy principle, even if there’s no specific law or regulation in place.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated due to a violation of public policy, it’s essential to consult with an employment lawyer to understand your rights and options. They can help you gather evidence, file a complaint with the appropriate governmental agency, and pursue legal action if necessary.
Wrongful Termination Based on Contract Breach
To determine if you have a case for wrongful termination based on contract breach in California, it’s crucial to review the terms and conditions of your employment agreement. Contracts are legally binding agreements between you and your employer, outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parties. If your employer terminates your employment in violation of the terms specified in the contract, it may be considered wrongful termination.
In California, employers are required to abide by the terms stated in the employment contract, including any provisions related to termination. If your employer breaches these terms, it may give rise to a claim for wrongful termination based on contract breach.
Common examples of contract breaches that may lead to wrongful termination include:
- Terminating your employment before the contract term expires.
- Terminating your employment without providing the notice period specified in the contract.
- Failing to comply with specific termination procedures outlined in the contract.
If you believe that your employer has breached the terms of your employment contract and wrongfully terminated you as a result, it’s important to consult with an experienced employment attorney. They can assess the details of your case and guide you through the process of pursuing a claim for wrongful termination based on contract breach.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination
It’s important to understand the exceptions to at-will employment and wrongful termination. While California is an at-will employment state, meaning that employers can terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, there are certain exceptions to this general rule.
One exception is when there’s an implied contract between the employer and employee. This can occur when the employer makes promises of continued employment or job security, either through oral or written statements. If an employee can prove the existence of an implied contract, they may have a valid claim for wrongful termination if the employer breaches that contract.
Another exception is when termination violates public policy. California law prohibits employers from terminating employees for reasons that are illegal or against public policy. For example, an employer can’t terminate an employee for reporting illegal activity or for refusing to engage in illegal conduct. If an employee is fired for such reasons, they may have a valid claim for wrongful termination.
It is important to consult with an employment attorney to determine whether your wrongful termination claim falls under one of these exceptions.
It’s important for employees to understand their rights and seek legal recourse if they believe they’ve been wrongfully terminated. California law provides certain exceptions to at-will employment, offering additional protection against wrongful termination.
By consulting with an employment lawyer, employees can determine if they have a valid claim and take appropriate steps to seek justice.