California Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Though California may be an at-will employment state, it does not mean that all terminated employees do not have recourse for a termination – especially if it is wrongful. Both state and federal laws prohibit an employer from making an employment decision due to an employee’s protected characteristic (religion, race, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, marital status), or retaliating against an employee by terminating them because of a complaint about discrimination. Other laws prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for requesting proper payment of wages or for engaging in whistleblowing activities. If you believe you may have been wrongfully terminated, contact Scott • Wagners and Associates today for a consultation and to learn your rights from one of our California wrongful termination lawyer.
Employer-Retaliation and Protected Acts Based on Public Policy
In addition to federal and state laws that prohibit retaliation when taking on an employee for filing discrimination charges against an employer, it is also prohibited for an employer to retaliate based on acts protected by public policy. Under this exception to California’s at-will doctrine, an employee is wrongfully discharged when the termination is against the public policy of the state.
What constitutes an act of public policy can be difficult to pinpoint. Courts have, however, indicated that public policy can either be found in the state’s constitution, statute, or administrative rule. One California appellate court found that public policy covered acts that had a tendency to be injurious to the public good. For example, a worker cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim after being injured on the job as this would undermine the public policy of being able to free exercise a statutory right. Other protected acts that may fall under this exception include:
- Refusing to perform an act that is prohibited by state law;
- Reporting a violation of the law; or
- Engaging in acts that are in the public interest, such as performing jury duty.
Fraud or Misrepresentation
Termination can also be wrongful if it is based on fraud or misrepresentations made by an employer. For example, one California court determined that an employer’s promise to an applicant that a position was permanent and that the employee could expect a raise within one year of being hired constituted misrepresentation when that person was later fired. The California Supreme Court also recognizes that it is illegal for an employer to represent availability of employment to an employee when this is not the case. An employer making a misrepresentation to induce an employee to change his or her position detrimentally could form the basis of a fraud claim in the context of wrongful termination.
Other Bases for Wrongful Termination
An employer also cannot terminate, based on the following characteristics, an employee who:
- Took time off work due to being a victim of a crime or because they were needed in court to act as a witness;
- Took time off work to be treated after being the victim of a stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault crime;
- Took time off for a medical procedure or because of a serious medical condition;
- Complained about discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
These are just a few examples of situations that can make a potential claim for wrongful termination. To understand how the laws apply to your employment situation, contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today for a consultation.
Contact a Labor and Employment Attorney Today
Under federal and state laws, an employer is also barred from terminating an employee who is protected by a whistleblower protection statute, an employee who complained about an OSHA violation, an employee who refused his or her employer’s commands to take part in illegal actions, and employers who were asked to provide information or testify against his or her employer on the behalf of a law enforcement agency. Employers cannot fire someone based on his or her alien status, as per the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and if an employee was not “at-will” and had an employee contract, there may only be specific circumstances in which an employee can be fired. No matter how you were let go, if you believe that it was based on unfair terms, contact the law office of Scott • Wagner and Associates today to schedule an appointment with one of our California wrongful termination lawyers as soon as possible.