California is considered an at-will employment state. This means that, for the most part, an employer can fire an employee for any reason at any time without regard to the employee’s past or present conduct. This means that an employer can fire an exemplary employee without even giving a reason. On the flip side of that coin, an employee can quit at any time for any reason and does not even have to a give a reason.
However, there are certain limitations to this general rule, meaning that some cases of firing an employee will constitute a wrongful termination. One of the situations in which an employer may not be able to fire an employee without cause, as discussed in a recent news article from Inquirer.Net, is when the employer and the employee have entered into a contractual relationship that requires good cause to terminate an employee.As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, one common example of when there is a contract that requires good cause for termination is when union leadership has entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the employer on behalf of union members. While an individual employee may not have many rights in this area, the union provides collective representation that equates to strength in numbers for union members.
Another reason that employers cannot fire an employee is if it involves discrimination of a protected class. When we say class, we mean class of individuals, and the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have established what are known as protective classes of persons with respect to anti-discrimination laws.
If an employer terminates an employee for an illegal reason (such as discrimination), this would be an example of wrongful termination. However, while it is easy to assume you were terminated for an illegal reason, it is something you would need to be able to prove in court, so it is important that you speak with an attorney who has previously handled numerous wrongful termination cases where the wrongful termination was based upon discrimination.
With respect to grounds that are illegal in California wrongful termination cases, an employer may not fire an employee based upon his or her age, race, sex, skin color, religious affiliation or lack thereof, country of origin, a medical condition including a disability, union membership, or pregnancy. There are various cases where an employee is pressured or harassed not to join a union and this is not allowed under state or federal law.
There are also other reasons that a termination can be deemed wrongful. For example, an employee cannot be fired for refusing to violate the law when ordered to do so by his or her employer. An employer also cannot fire an employee because they were required to go court when issued a subpoena to be a witnesses or required to serve jury duty. Even if an employee is put on a trial that will take weeks, the employer cannot fire the employee for doing he or her civic duty. While the employee can try to get out of jury duty by saying he or she has to work, if that is not successful, they could be arrested and charged with a crime for failing to show up, so they cannot be fired for doing what is required of them by law.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
When is an employment termination ‘wrongful’ in California?, June 9, 2017, By Joe Sayas Jr., Inquirer.net
More Blog Entries:
Federal Appeals Court Considers Workplace Protections for LGBT Community, Dec. 18, 2017, Orange County LGBT Discrimination Lawyer Blog