Employment Law Lawyer in California

California Wrongful Termination Laws

Wrongful termination happens when an employer-employee agreement is terminated by an employer who violates the employee’s legal rights. Under California law, such a situation can arise when an employer violates state or federal law, the general principles of public policy, the contract of employment, or any other aspect of the law. The state of California provides a number of protections for workers, including a statement of circumstances as to how an employee can be lawfully be terminated.

If you’ve been fired from your job, you might have a lot of questions. Was it lawful for my employer to fire me? What will happen next? Knowing your legal rights may help you get your job back or sue your employer for wrongful termination.

California is an At-Will State

Under California law, most employees are considered to be working on an at-will basis. This means that the worker is free to leave his or her job at any time. Similarly, employers may terminate employees at any time for any legal reason, or for no reason whatsoever. This is the case unless there is a clear contractual agreement between the employer and the employee which restricts the employer’s right to terminate the employee.

It is important to keep in mind that your employer can decide to terminate an employee for no good reason, even if the employee is doing a good job. This could happen even though there was nothing wrong with the employee. Although employers do not need a reasonable reason to terminate an employee, they are prohibited from terminating their workers on unlawful reasons. Here are some examples of reasons for termination that could be illegal:

  • Terminating an employee on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Terminating an employee due to political beliefs or affiliations.
  • Terminating an employee because they requested time off to which they are legally entitled to.
  • Terminating an employee because he or she reported/whistleblowing a violation of the law by the employer.

Who is an Employee in California

In California, only employees can file a claim or a lawsuit against their employer for wrongful termination. This is because there needs to be an employer-employee arrangement. A worker is deemed to be an employee if he or she works under the direction, supervision and control of the employer. There is a clear difference between employees and independent contractors. While the contractor delivers a particular product or service, the employer does not have the right to regulate the means by which the contractor achieves that result.

The more control the employer exercises over the way in which the worker conducts his or her job and the duties related to his or her job, the more likely the worker is to be considered an employee by the courts. People who are not employees may have a claim against a company for breach of contract or for breach of some other law. The termination of a business arrangement in which no party is an employee does not meet the criteria to qualify as a termination.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment

There are also several exceptions to at-will employment. Some employees have contracts, and this limits the employers ability to terminate them. In such cases, employees may be able to claim that they have been wrongfully terminated because their employer did not have a legitimate reason to dismiss them.

For example, in situations where the employer decides to hire an employee for a certain period of time, but does not define the circumstances in which the employee may be terminated, the employee may be terminated only if:

  • Job duties are breached
  • The employee routinely neglects job duties
  • The employee is not able to perform job duties for some reason

A contract can be entered verbally or in writing, and is usually for a fixed period of time. The contract can also restrict the employer’s ability to terminate the employee if it requires the employer to have a reasonable reason to terminate the contract. In addition, employees who are union members, for example, are not at-will workers. This is because unions negotiate a contract of employment that only requires for cause terminations.

Laws That Prohibit Unlawful Discrimination

One of the most common grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit arises when the employer has a discriminatory motive to fire the employee. There are a variety of laws in California that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The California Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from discrimination on the basis of physical disability, age, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, sex and gender identity, sexual orientation or military and veteran status.

Under the law, a worker cannot be targeted by the employer for termination due to any protected characteristics. Employers cannot target an employee for harassment of protected characteristics or create a working environment in which a member of a protected class puts the employee at a disadvantage. Similarly, the employer cannot harass the employee for belonging to a protected class. The employer cannot create or maintain a hostile working environment that leaves a class member with no other choice but to quit their job.

Other Laws That Protect Employees

Political discrimination: California law also prohibits employers from controlling their employees’ political activities. So, for example, an employer cannot fire an employee for being a member of a political party or forbid him or her from going to political rallies.

Language discrimination: Employers might commit wrongful termination if they fire employees for speaking a different language in the workplace. There are certain exceptions to the rule such as whether the language requirement is justified by a business necessity.

Victims of crime: Those who have been victimized by a crime have a right to be free from workplace discrimination. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who need to appear in court as a witness in a crime of which he or she was a victim.

Immigration discrimination: All employees, regardless of their immigration status, are protected by California’s employment laws. While employers are prohibited from hiring undocumented workers, non-citizens are still protected against discrimination just as U.S. citizens are.

Review your claim with an Employment Law Lawyer in California

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully terminated from your employment, it is crucial to contact an experienced wrongful termination lawyer who will help you seek compensation for back pay, punitive damages, and compensation for emotional distress, hospitalization, and suffering.

Contact our wrongful termination lawyers for a free consultation. Call (415) 534-1911, email info@potterhandy.com, or contact us using the website form.