While practically anyone can get fired at any time for a variety of reasons, there are certain instances where it can be illegal for an employer to terminate an employee. If you have recently been fired or laid off, it is important to understand whether your employer's reasons for terminating you were legal in the first place. But how do you know when it is appropriate to sue your employer for wrongful termination?
The following article will answer this question and others to help you understand your employee rights under California and federal wrongful termination laws.
Understanding Wrongful Termination and Your Employee Rights
What is Wrongful Termination?
California is an "at-will" state. This means that unless a contract is entered between you and your employer, under California labor law, your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason without warning or due process. Being employed at-will also means that you can quit your job at any time and for any reason without warning. The exception to the general at-will rule is if your employer fires you for unlawful reasons that violate workplace anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws.
A California employer may be engaging in wrongful termination if it fires an employee due to a protected characteristic (age, race, gender, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion) under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and a variety of other employment laws that offer employee protections.
Examples of Wrongful Termination
The following examples may constitute wrongful termination in California:
- Your employer fires you due to a protected characteristic under California or federal law;
- Your employer fires you for filing a workplace discrimination or harassment claim;
- Your employer fires you for participating in a workplace discrimination investigation;
- Your employer fires you for refusing to commit an illegal act;
- Your employer does not follow proper termination procedures as outlined in your workplace employee handbook or company policy;
- Your employer coerced you to quit your job due to hostile or intolerable working conditions that your employer knew about. This is called constructive discharge.
So, Can I Sue My Employer for Wrongful Termination in California?
If your California employer has engaged in any of the unlawful behaviors as outlined above, then yes, you can generally sue for wrongful termination in California. Both California and federal employment laws protect workers from illegal layoffs and firings. If you feel that your employer has violated California wrongful termination laws, consult a California employment attorney right away for representation.
How to Sue Your Boss for Wrongful Termination in California
Once you have determined that your employer may have illegally fired you, it is important to contact an employment lawyer who can help you file a complaint with the appropriate agency and in a timely manner. Depending on certain factors, your wrongful termination complaint will either be filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Always be sure to make copies of your application and any correspondence between you, your lawyer and the agency, including your "right to sue" letter.
No one should have to worry about losing a job for unlawful, discriminatory reasons. If you feel you are a victim of wrongful termination in California, contact our experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys for a free consultation.