Wrongful termination lawsuits in California often involve several complex factors as well as a court case argued in front of a judge and jury. The cases might argue whether the person was fired after due process was served and if the employee was given proper warning of shortcomings on the job and given an opportunity to improve job performance. The monetary awards to those who successfully sue for wrongful termination often depends upon the scope of the case and whether punitive damages are considered.
Several employees of the San Diego State University athletic department have won recent wrongful termination cases. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the women’s basketball coach received a multi-million award that claimed breach of contract and whistleblower retaliation. During the court proceedings, which lasted four weeks, prosecutors argued the coach was fired by the university because she physically elbowed an assistant coach and mistreated subordinates. Though other factors played a part in the case, the jury by a 9-3 count decided that the coach’s actions did not merit her termination.
The California Labor Code states that an employee may be fired for no reason or for an arbitrary or even irrational reason. However, according to a column in the Advocate Magazine, a worker cannot be legally terminated for an unlawful reason. This language allows attorneys to represent clients fired in violation of state and federal anti-discrimination laws. This concept of wrongful termination in violation of public policy gained precedent in 1980. This case stated that employers have a duty to resist firing employees for reasons that violate public policy, such as discrimination and intolerable working conditions.