When is a Termination Considered a Wrongful Termination?
If you were fired from your job and you believe your employer acted wrongfully, an employment attorney can help you to determine if you have legal options. If your termination is considered a wrongful termination, you may be entitled to reinstatement, back pay, and potentially even additional damages.
Brown & Charbonneau, LLP understands the laws on wrongful discharge in the state of California, as well as the federal laws prohibiting wrongful discharge. Our Irvine employment attorneys have a long history of representing workers who were wrongfully terminated. We also provide advice, guidance, and representation to employers in establishing policies to prevent wrongful discharge and in defending against allegations that a worker was wrongfully terminated. When you need a legal professional who is ready to fight for your interests, give us a call.
When is a Termination a Wrongful Discharge?
In California, many people are at will employees. California Civil Jury Instruction 2400 indicates there is a presumption a worker is at will. This means: “An employment relationship may be ended by either the employer or the employee, at any time, for any [lawful] reason, or for no reason at all, unless the employee proves that the parties, by words or conduct, agreed that the employee would be discharged only for good cause.”
Employers and employees can enter into employment contracts, which stipulate that employees will work for a given term of time or which stipulate that employees will only be terminated for violating a specific set of protocols and guidelines. These employment contracts should specify the specific process by which an employer can terminate a worker. If an employment contract is in place and an employer fires a worker for reasons outside of the agreed-upon contractual grounds for firing, then the termination may be considered a wrongful one. An employment attorney can be contacted in these situations to help the employee take action.
A termination is also a wrongful discharge even when there is no employment contract if an employee is fired for an unlawful reason. An unlawful reason may include:
- Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, or disability status. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and California laws, both establish certain characteristics (like race and religion) as having protected status. You cannot be fired because of your protected status or it is considered wrongful termination.
- Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While there is currently no federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, California law does protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination.
- Discrimination on the basis of age. Older workers are protected from being fired because of their age by the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
- Termination because you spoke up about a workplace safety violation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has anti-retaliatory provisions to protect workers who report violations. If you are fired because you report a problem at work, you should consult with an employment attorney.
- Termination because of pregnancy. You cannot be fired as a result of becoming pregnant or having children.
- Termination because you made a workers’ compensation claim. An employer cannot fire you because you make a claim for a workplace injury. Even if you cannot work temporarily or permanently, you will still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
These are some of many examples of situations where specific reasons for termination are unlawful. If you are fired for any of these reasons, or otherwise terminated for an illegal reason, you should pursue legal action so you can get the help you need to recover for your financial losses.
How Can an Employment Attorney Help When a Wrongful Discharge Occurs?
If your company is considering terminating someone and you want to find out if you are at risk of being sued, or you need assistance in establishing grounds for termination to head off litigation, Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help. We can also assist you if your company wants to establish a handbook or company policy aimed at heading off litigation.
Our experienced attorneys also provide aggressive legal representation for employees who were the victims of wrongful discharge. If you believe you were fired for an illegal reason, you should contact an Irvine employment attorney at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP right away so that we can begin gathering evidence to put together the strongest case possible. Call us today at (866)237-8129 or contact us online so we can start on your case.