Mythbusting: California Wrongful Termination

Filing a California employment lawsuit is a big decision – one that can be rewarding in more ways than one. However, it’s important to understand that not all termination of employment actions are illegal just because they seemed unfair. wrongful termination lawyer

As our Orange County employment attorneys can explain, these claims must stem specifically from violations of:

  • Federal anti-discrimination laws
  • State anti-discrimination laws
  • Labor laws (including whistleblower protections)
  • Employment contracts
  • Retaliation (for claims of things like discrimination, harassment or workers’ compensation)
  • WARN Act violations (mass layoff cases)

In other words, unfair doesn’t always mean wrongful, at least legally speaking.

In truth, you can often be fired for no valid reason and have no real recourse. Having a conversation with an experienced employment law attorney can help you sort through your legal options and determine whether you’ve got a case.

In practicing this kind of law for many years, we’ve come across numerous common misconceptions workers have about their rights and reasonable expectations when it comes to employment law.

“My Employer Didn’t Have a Reason to Fire Me – That’s Wrongful Termination” 

Not exactly. At least not in California.

It’s true that the Golden State has some of the strongest workforce protections in the country, but that doesn’t mean you can file an employment lawsuit for just any reason.

California is considered an “employment at will” state. What that means is that barring an employment contract that specifies otherwise, your employer doesn’t really need a reason to fire you.

Where you actually have a case is if you can show the termination was motivated at least in part by discrimination, retaliation or in violation of labor laws. Protected classes include gender (includes sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination), race, sexual orientation (in this state, anyway), national origin and disability. Even then, there are stipulations. For example, you are protected from age discrimination only if you’re over the age of 40 (assuming you work more than 20 hours weekly for an employer with 20 or more employees, according to federal law). If you were discriminated against for age-related reasons but you’re younger than that, you won’t have a claim.

“My Employer Can Fire Me for Expressing Political Opinions”

Not in California. It’s one of four states with specific protections for workers who endorse political candidates, attend political rallies, etc. Even then, however, you’ll want to have a discussion with an employment attorney before deciding your next course of action.

“I Can’t Sue My Employer Because I Quit”

Not so. Wrongful termination lawsuits can still be filed if you were the one to end your employment with the company, assuming you can show that the environment at work became so intolerable, hostile or hazardous as to continue working that you were left with little other choice.

You can also sue for wrongful termination if you can show your employer coaxed or coerced you into resigning from your post.

“My Employer Will Want to Settle the Case Quickly” 

Companies aren’t keen to pay wrongful termination settlements if they can avoid it. The reality is you must be able to present a solid case based on the law to be successful.

The truth of the matter is that unless the details are truly sensational or you’re a celebrity or there are a lot of plaintiffs, it’s unlikely the case will make much of a blip in the news cycle. Large companies have armies of lawyers and public relations employees – they won’t be as concerned about hurrying to settle. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t file or that you can’t win, but don’t expect they’ll be intimidated just because they’re facing litigation.

Talk to an experienced wrongful termination attorney about your rights and what you can expect going into the process.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

California Labor Code section 2922