What constitutes wrongful termination in California?

Employees should understand what constitutes wrongful termination to know whether their former employer engaged in an illegal act.

Being suddenly terminated can come as quite a blow, no matter if the reasons are valid or even legal. California employees should be well aware of what constitutes an illegal firing as well as what steps they can take to remedy the situation. While the right information might not necessarily get you your job back, it can help you understand your rights and know what to do next.

A violation of promises

If employer promises were on the table, such as a specific wage or a specific time frame for guaranteed employment, and were violated, you likely have grounds to take legal action. That being said, your employer might still have grounds for rightful termination if it was you who violated the contract.

Breach of good faith

Sometimes, the blame is on the shoulders of the employer rather than the employee. An employer might refuse to pay overtime or commission, or an employer may simply lie about the reason for the termination. Either situation is considered a breach of good faith.

Discrimination

There are several different types of workplace discrimination in the state of California, including age, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy and both physical and mental disability. It is up to employers to prove an employee termination was not linked to any type of discrimination. Terminated employees should be sure to ask for records of disciplinary action and the like to see whether they can prove their termination was fueled by discrimination.

A violation of public policy

A termination is also considered wrongful if the employer breached public policy. For instance, your employer does not have the right to fire you if you took time off work to vote or serve jury duty; you also cannot be fired if you took off work on grounds laid out by federal laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you discover your employer is mired in illegal acts and inform the authorities, you cannot be legally terminated for coming forward with the information.

Constructive discharge

If you decide to leave an employer because of unbearable working conditions, it can still be considered a termination rather than a resignation, essentially because you were forced to leave rather than wanted to leave on your own. Under such conditions, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits and have a case on your hands.

While it can quite jarring to suddenly lose your job, be sure you take the time to ensure your rights under the state of California were not violated. Reach out to an attorney to go over your case and explore your legal options.