Wrongful Termination in California
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Am I Protected in "At-Will" Employment?
California is an “at-will” employment state. This generally means that an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. However, while employers have wide discretion in terminating employment, there are exceptions that provide some protection for employees:
- Firing in Violation of Employment Contract: If you believe you may have been fired inappropriately, the first place to look is your employee contract. Employee contracts can vary widely but some provide workers with protections from termination. If the employer ignores any of these protections, the contract will be breached and the employee may be entitled to damages.
- Firing in Violation of Company Rules: Employers are not allowed to terminate an employee if it violates the company’s own written policy.
- Discriminatory Firing: Federal law prevents an employer from firing an employee based on certain protected characteristics, including: race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (if the employee is at least 40), disability, citizenship status, or genetic information.
California Public Policy Protections: What Triggers Wrongful Termination?
In addition, California law prohibits firing an employee for reasons that violate public policy. There are four main reasons for termination that constitute violations of public policy:
- Refusing to violate a law: You cannot be fired for refusing a request from your employer to do something against the law.
- Performing a legal obligation: if you are legally required to do something, your employer may not terminate or otherwise discipline you for obeying the law.
- Exercising a legal or constitutional right: if you have a legal right to engage in a certain type of activity (political association, free speech, etc.) your employer may not terminate or otherwise discipline you for engaging in that activity.
- Reporting a violation: often referred to as the protection for whistleblowers, an employer cannot fire you if you report an employee or company violation to protect the public.
- Reporting a violation of a law: if you think that your employer has violated a law, you can report the employer without fear of reprisal. This includes health and safety regulations. For these purposes, all that matters is that your report was made in good faith. It does not matter if your report later turns out to be inaccurate.
Should I Seek an Attorney's Advice?
If you believe that you have been the victim of wrongful termination, a skilled employment attorney can help you investigate the reasons for the termination, gather evidence and advocate for you in court.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 09-22-2017 11:39 AM PDT
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