Because California is an at-will employment state, your employer has the right to hire and fire individuals as it sees fit. However, there are instances when an employer conducts a firing in such a way that it violates state law. When this happens, the law refers to it as wrongful termination. If your employer commits wrongful termination, you may be entitled to civil remedies. According to FindLaw, there are four main events that may lead to a wrongful termination. Those include discrimination, retaliation, harassment and breach of contract.
Discrimination occurs when your employer treats you differently because of your age, gender, race, disability, genetic profile, religion, national origin, gender identity or sexual preference. If you have evidence that your employer treated you differently and subsequently terminated you because of discriminatory reasons, you may have a wrongful termination case. Evidence may be direct, such as verbal or written statements from your employer, or circumstantial, such as recent layoffs that involved only women, disabled individuals or elderly personnel.
Employers cannot fire workers for exercising their basic or protected rights. If an employer does, the law considers it retaliation, which is also against the law. Retaliation may occur when an employer terminates the employment of an individual who filed a whistleblower claim, or who participated in an investigation into potentially illegal behavior. To have a valid wrongful termination by retaliation claim, you must be able to prove that you participated in a protected activity and that your employer treated you differently afterward because of it. Evidence that your employer tried to discourage you from participation is also helpful.
Harassment based on an employee’s gender, age, race or other protected class is also prohibited. If your employer routinely made offensive remarks, partook in offensive actions or ignored offensive actions based on any of the protected categories, you may have a harassment claim. The comments and actions must have occurred frequently enough to create a hostile work environment for a wrongful termination by harassment claim to stick.
Finally, if your employer violated your employment contract, you may be able to prove wrongful termination. Though a written contract can help prove your case, it is not necessary, as words and actions are enough to create an implied agreement.
This article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.