California is an at-will employment state, which means an employer can terminate an employee without needing or providing a reason (at-will), with some exceptions, to the employee. If an employer violates any of these exceptions, they could be brought to court for wrongful termination.
Unlawful Reasons to Terminate an Employee
If an employer fires or lays off an employee in California for any of the following situations, most of which deal with public policy, they may be able to sue:
- Wrongful termination without good cause in an implied contract;
- Physical or mental disability (FEHA, or ADA);
- Family Medical Leave (FMLA); Pregnancy;
- Race, Gender, Age, Sexual orientation/Gender Identity, Religion, and National origin;
- AIDS/HIV status;
- Military or veteran status;
- Victim of domestic violence, stalking, or assault;
- Political beliefs or activities;
- Retaliation for being a whistleblower;
- Retaliation for complaints regarding health and safety, unpaid wages, and Labor Code violations;
- Constructive termination, which occurs when working conditions are so intolerable, that an employee is forced to quit; and/or
- WARN Act violations (mass layoff with insufficient notice).
Most unlawful terminations are discrimination cases are brought under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Retaliation cases against an employer for violating the Labor Code are also commonplace.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated from your job, you should contact an employment law attorney immediately. Wrongful termination cases are serious and can be quite complex. The company who fired you likely has their own legal representation, and so should you.
An experienced employment lawyer in your area can gather all the facts pertaining to your case, determine your best course of action, and seek the damages to which you are owed. You may be entitled to recover your past and future lost wages, benefits, and possibly emotional distress damages. If the employer’s conduct was especially reprehensible, an attorney may also recover punitive damages for you. If your claim succeeds, then your attorney’s fees may also be recoverable as the court may order them to be paid by your former employer.
Should I Seek an Employment Law Attorney's Advice?
You do not have to face your former employer alone. Contact an experienced California employment lawyer in your area immediately, so you can begin rebuilding your life. Some attorneys will take unlawful termination cases on a contingency basis, so you will not have to worry about the out-of-pocket costs of litigation. The sooner you call, the sooner you may recover what is rightfully yours.