California is an at-will employment state which means that so long as a person does not have an employment agreement and a public policy is not violated, employers are free to fire their employees for any reason, or no reason at all. The exception to this is that employers may not fire an employee for unlawful reasons and if they do, that is wrongful termination. If you believe or suspect that you were wrongfully terminated in California, read on to learn more.
Wrongful termination can be a confusing subject because there are so many unlawful reasons for firing an employee. Sometimes you may not know if your employer’s reason for firing you was unlawful, and sometimes you know you were fired for an unlawful reason, but you don’t know if you can prove it. You should start with understanding whether or not you were discriminated against because you’re a member of a specific protected class.
Employers may not discriminate against protected classes
Discrimination is one of the biggies in the wrongful termination world. It is illegal to discriminate against any of the protected classes. There are many protected classes that you are probably familiar with including sex (pregnancy, childbirth, etc.), gender, race, color, age, disability, and religion. There are other unlawful reasons for termination in California with which you may not be familiar. Employers may not discriminate against employees based on gender identity, marital status, domestic violence victim, military status, political affiliation, and AIDS/HIV. This list is not inclusive and you should consult with a wrongful termination expert to discuss the class specifics that may be involved in your termination.
Other unlawful reasons for termination
There are many other unlawful reasons for termination including the following:
- Retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct – An employer may not fire you for reporting sexual harassment or other illegal activities taking place at work.
- Legally protected time off – An employer may not terminate your employment for legally protected time off such as FMLA (including maternity leave and caring for a sick family member), military service, voting, and jury duty. California has generous laws for protected leave that may not be offered in other states such as school activities leave and leave for new parents.
- Workers’ compensation – An employee may not be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim and taking time off to recover from a work-related injury.
- Wrongful Constructive Termination – An employer may not, for unlawful reasons that would make an actual termination wrongful, make working conditions intolerable so as to force an employee to quit his/her job.
If it feels wrong, call a lawyer
We’ve only touched on some of the unlawful reasons for termination. There are federal, state, and local laws covering wrongful termination and it can be overwhelming and confusing to try to analyze the legalities of your termination by yourself. If you feel like your termination was wrongful, contact our JML Law, P.C. wrongful termination attorney, to set up a consultation. Let us help you sort out your termination facts, gather evidence, and ask appropriate questions to determine whether or not you have a wrongful termination case.