As Los Angeles employment lawyers, we’re aware of a number of significant misconceptions that people have regarding wrongful termination claims.
It is not simply enough that a firing be unfair or rooted in reasons that are unfounded. In order for California wrongful termination claims to prevail, the termination must have occurred in contrast to federal or state anti-discrimination laws, labor laws, whistleblower laws, or employment contracts. These are not as easy to prove as people think.
We recognize that many aspects of employment law are convoluted, which contributes to the confusion. Here, we want to break down some of the top California wrongful termination claim myths that are most pervasive.
Myth: Wrongful termination applies to any unfair firing.
California, like so many other states, allows for at-will employment. That means you can be fired at any time and for any reason – or none at all. It doesn’t have to be fair. The boss’s son might get away with talking on his cell phone during work hours – but you get fired for the same offense. That’s not necessarily illegal. Where it crosses the legal line (usually) is when it’s discriminatory – on the basis of one’s gender, race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, disability, age, etc. It’s also illegal to fire workers for blowing the whistle on unsafe practices or in violation of the terms of one’s employment contract.
Myth: Only women and minorities can sue for wrongful termination.
Not so. Any person who belongs to a protected class can sue if they are being treated unfairly on the basis of there presence in that class or suspected presence or association with someone else in that class. For example, if a person is fired because they married someone who is Jewish, they may have a claim for employment discrimination and/or wrongful termination. Also, any worker whose employment contract was violated in the course of that firing may have a claim as well. If you cooperate with an OSHA investigation, you can’t be legally fired for that, as it would be considered retaliation.
Myth: If you quit, you forfeit your right to sue your employer.
False. There have been many wrongful termination lawsuits in which the employee quit – usually because they found the workplace environment too hostile, dangerous, or intolerable to continue. The only viable choice they had left was to quit. In some cases, employees are coerced into resigning. In both of these scenarios, the employee can still pursue a wrongful termination claim.
Myth: Anyone over 40 can sue employers for age discrimination.
The reality is that while workplace age discrimination is very common – and illegal. And the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 does protect employees and applicants over the age of 40. However, this protection is limited to employees who:
- Work for a private employer.
- Is an employee (as opposed to an independent contractor).
- The employer has 20+ workers employed for at least 20 weeks out of the year.
In California, we also have the Fair Employment & Housing Act, which expands these protections to include those over 40 working for (or trying to get a job with):
- An employer that regularly employs 5+ workers.
- Any entities that act as an agent of a covered employer. (This can apply in some scenarios involving entities like general contractors or staffing agencies.)
- State and local government entities. That’s not just the mayor’s office, but schools, police departments, fire departments, public utilities departments, etc.
Age discrimination cases aren’t the easiest to win, so it’s important to hire an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney to handle your case.
Myth: Employers usually settle wrongful termination cases quickly.
The reality is that unless a California wrongful termination case has the backing of strong evidence, a quick settlement is unlikely. Yes, the company might be concerned about the brand’s reputation in some cases, but unless the details are especially salacious, it’s unlikely there will be a significant amount of media coverage – which means the company won’t be as motivated to sign off on a quick settlement.
Bottom line: There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what constitutes as wrongful termination. Talking to an experienced employment attorney can help clarify the viability of your case. Initial consultations are free.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Labor Laws & Issues, USA.gov