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If you’ve recently been laid off, you probably have a lot of questions for your employer when it comes to your final paycheck and employee benefits package. Layoffs can also be particularly confusing if you feel that your employer’s reasons for laying you off may not have been legal in the first place.

The following article will help you understand California layoff laws, and when it may be appropriate to contact an employment attorney to sue your boss for laying you off illegally.

Understanding California Layoff Laws & Your Employee Rights

Can you sue your boss for laying you off in California?

More often than not, California employers have the ability to lay off workers due to economic business needs if their employees are hired “at-will.” If you are an at-will employee, you likely have an employment relationship without a specified duration. Because of this, many employers in California can fire or lay off workers at any time (and for any reason) as long as the reasoning is legal. In these instances, you probably can’t sue your boss for letting you go – unless they violate certain California laws such as not giving you proper notice before a mass layoff, or when an employer lays off older workers, but not younger workers.

But what if you’re a freelance or contracted worker? If you hold an employment contract with your employer, then federal and California laws may protect you from different types of layoffs. Thus, you can sometimes sue your employer for violating these particular protections, and even for breaking contractual agreements.

Additionally, if your employer lays you off due to discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, you may have potential claims against your employer.

What are California layoff laws and how do they protect me?

While your employer may legally lay you off due to financial reasons, you have certain employee rights under California and federal law. In some instances, this includes being given a proper amount of notice of mass layoffs or plant closings under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. California also has similar state laws that expand upon federal layoff laws.

Under federal WARN laws, the only employers who are covered are those who employ 100 full-time employees or more, or at least 100 workers with combined hours worked of 4,000 or more per week. However, under California’s “mini-WARN” law, employers are covered if they employ at least 75 workers if they fall into the industrial or commercial facility sectors.

If your employer is supposed to abide by WARN laws and doesn’t give you the required 60-day notice of a plant closing or mass layoff, then you may be able to sue your employer for laying you off. However, there are exceptions to this rule if you are a temporary or seasonal employee, or if job losses were due to unforeseeable circumstances such as natural disasters, physical calamities and a variety of other reasons.

Contracted employees in California are also protected by certain laws if an employer lays them off due to reasons that aren’t specified within an employment contract. You may also have the same rights if you have an oral or implied contract with your employer.

If your employer breaks their own termination policy or contract with you and other employees, this could also indicate that layoffs were motivated by illegal reasons.

How am I protected from discriminatory or retaliatory layoffs in California?

California at-will employees and those who are considered contractors are also protected from illegal layoffs and wrongful termination by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and federal employment laws.

This means that if you or a larger class of employees were laid off due to certain protected characteristics (age, race, sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion, national origin, etc.), your employer could be violating workplace discrimination laws. In this case, you will want to file a workplace discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

California Layoff Laws & Wrongful Termination: For Further Reading

  • California At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination: Common Questions
  • California Layoff: What You Need to Know via BLR.com
  • Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification via State of California Employment Development Department
  • Your Rights After Being Laid Off in California via WrongfulTerminationLaws.com

If you feel your employer has violated California WARN laws, or think you have been laid off due to discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, an employment attorney can help. Contact the experienced California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.