Unfair Termination: What is Unfair?

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Most Common Employment Law Issues:

What is Unfair Termination of Employment?

Unfair termination is the firing of an employee for unjust reasons. Modern courts have the power to grant “fairness remedies.” Principles of fairness give a judge the right to use discretion so that justice will be served. But what is “justice”? The law allows judges to consider all the facts, and then rely on what amounts to a gut reaction. In another words, in search for justice, a judge may look to the "totality of circumstances" involved in your case.

Judges should consider all facts and circumstances in cases of unfair termination. Constructive dismissal (being demoted to a menial task), termination with prejudice, termination without good cause, and forced resignation can all constitute unfair termination depending on the circumstances.

Has My Existing Employment Contract Been Violated?

A major kind of unfair termination occurs when an employee is fired in violation of a signed contract. In these cases, there are many fairness factors to be considered: whether the employer received a benefit that he or she never repaid to the employee, whether the employee spent money in reliance on the employer’s promises, or whether the employer should be ordered to do something, such as give the employee her job back.

Can My "At Will" Employment Relationship be Violated?

California courts recognize that the so called "covenant of good faith and fair dealing" is implied not only in employment contracts but also in an "at-will" employment relationship. In "at will" employment, where no contract exists, California courts recognize that an employee is still entitled to be paid for the work already completed. So, even without an employment contract, the California courts may assess (as part of the fairness consideration) if an employer has paid the terminated employee for completed work. 

Has your Employer Discriminated against You?

As another example, unfair termination is when employees are fired because of their race, color, sex, national origin, or religion.  When an employee is fired for reporting wrongful activities, fired for serving on a jury, or fired for filing a worker’s compensation claim, these can constitute unfair termination. Judges have the power to hold the employer liable, based on their gut feelings about the fairness and justice of the situation.

Seeking Attorney's Help: How to Find Answers when You Get Fired Unfairly?

If you suspect that your employer had terminated you unfairly, seek assistance of a professional attorney specializing in employment law. An attorney will advise you about your specific type of unfair termination as well as the laws violated by your employer.  Note that even if you think you are working "at will," a contractual relationship may be implied based on existing law or a factual situation.

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Last Modified: 09-16-2013 10:52 AM PDT

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