California Wrongful Termination Laws 2024 – All You Need to Know

Frank S. Clowney III

If you or a family member was recently fired from a job, make sure the termination was completely legal. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to know when a wrongful discharge has occurred. Keep reading below to learn more about California wrongful termination laws and how they protect workers in the state.

What Is Considered Wrongful Termination in CA?

An employee who is let go or fired from their job may have been unfairly, or wrongly, terminated if their termination was in violation of their employment contract or if the firing infringed upon their legal rights, such as those under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you’re not sure whether or not your termination was illegal, reach out to a wrongful termination lawyer.

Laws within the FEHA keep employers from firing their employees for a reason based on or solely because of their age, sex/gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, country of origin, and other characteristics that are legally protected, such as pregnancy or genetic predispositions. Additionally, this act prevents workplace retaliation against employees who report discrimination or harassment.

Another mandate that protects employees from wrongful discharge from work is the California Labor Code, which prevents employers from terminating workers because of a complaint about hour and wage violations that occurred or for taking part in a labor dispute (e.g., a strike or walkout). Among other provisions, the code also requires that employees be provided with periods of rest and break time.

Job Protection for Employees Under the California Family Rights Act

California employees cannot be fired for exercising their rights under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which allows qualifying employees to take unpaid leave for medical reasons or family circumstances as long as the circumstances meet the requirements outlined in the act. Employers are also barred from refusing, interfering with, or preventing workers from taking leave that is proven to be necessary and legally qualifying.

This law also prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action, including termination, against an employee for requesting leave, taking leave, or after returning from leave. Examples include taking leave for a sick family member who requires care or taking leave to be available during the process of adopting a child.

How to Take Legal Action Against Your Employer for Wrongful Termination

If you believe you have a case for an unfair firing claim, ensure you begin preparing early; the statute of limitations to file for wrongful termination is two years after the day of discharge, so it’s advantageous to start building your case earlier rather than later. This may appear like more than enough time, but there is always the possibility of unexpected court delays, and it can take time to gather all the evidence you need to build a strong argument.

The first step is to gather evidence, such as your employee contract, performance reviews, and any correspondence with your employer concerning your termination. It is also prudent to keep a written record of any discriminatory behavior or retaliatory action that you endured or witnessed during your employment.

It’s crucial to consult with a qualified employment attorney early on as well. An experienced legal professional will be able to assess your situation, provide wise counsel, and make sure you’re aware of all available options. Soon after this point, you’re likely to file a claim with a federal/state agency or against your employer directly, which your employment law attorney can help you with.


Q: Can You Be Fired Without Warning in California?

A: In most cases, yes, you can be fired without any warning in the state of California. This is because the majority of the state’s employees are in “at-will” employment; this means your employer can terminate your job position at any time without reason.

Exceptions to this are if the termination is against your employee contract, such as none of the outlined potential reasons or required circumstances for your termination have been met, or if the firing was in violation of your legal rights, such as retaliation for asking for leave.

Q: How Do I Know If I Was Unfairly Terminated?

A: An employment attorney can help you determine if you have been unfairly terminated. They will have a thorough familiarity with the law and can provide answers to your questions. Some examples of wrongful termination include an employer firing you based on an inherent trait of yours (e.g., age, race, gender) or because you reported or filed a complaint about the discrimination or harassment of another coworker or yourself.

Q: What Is the Settlement for Wrongful Termination in California?

A: The settlement for a wrongful termination claim in California varies from case to case. You can typically expect your compensation to include the monetary amount you lost in income and work benefits, and additionally, in some cases, you may earn recompense for the emotional distress you sustained and punitive damages against your employer.

Wrongful termination cases have no cap, so the amount you may be awarded will depend on the circumstances of your situation, including how severe the wrongful conduct was.

Q: What Are Three Examples of a Wrongful Discharge?

A: The following are three examples of unlawful termination:

  • An employer fires someone after discovering they’re an immigrant.
  • You notify your boss that a coworker has been sexually harassing the new employee. Before you can file a complaint to HR, your employer terminates you.
  • After you tell your boss about the hostile work environment, they say they’ll handle it, but it doesn’t improve. You notice they stopped giving you as many quality assignments. You’re forced to resign because of underpayment and worsening hostility.

If You Think You Might Have Been Fired Unfairly, Talk with an Employment Lawyer

The team of legal professionals at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III is experienced in representing and advising clients who have faced unfair treatment in their place of employment, including getting fired for an illegal reason. Schedule a meeting with one of our employment law attorneys today to get an evaluation of your situation, understand your options and begin working on your case.