Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Our jobs are often not only the source of our livelihood, but also a key part of our identity. This means that losing a job unexpectedly can be a devastating experience.
Yet when you lose that job because of an illegal act of wrongful termination, the experience is even more traumatic.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination in California?
Fortunately, California residents are protected by laws that allow them to pursue legal remedies when victimized by a wrongful firing. In order to take full advantage of these protections, however, you have to know what they cover, and how to use them for your own benefit.
Wrongful Termination in California: The Basics
California is what is known as an “at will” state. This means that employers can terminate workers “at will,” without justification. This means a worker can show up on time, do an excellent job, stay out of trouble — and still be legally terminated.
However, this rule is not all encompassing, as there are exceptions. Employers are expressly forbidden to fire workers who fit into certain classes or who are involved in certain situations. Employers may not fire or lay off workers for the following reasons:
- Physical or mental disabilities
- Sexual orientation or gender identity
- Military status
- Political beliefs
- Whistleblower status
- Use of Family Medical Leave or pregnancy
- Being a victim or domestic abuse or stalking
- Discussing income or work conditions
- Filing a safety complaint
- Making reasonable requests for accommodations
- Filing a Worker’s Compensation claim
- Situations where working conditions are intolerable and workers are forced to quit
- Violations of the WARN Act (which requires notice before mass layoffs)
- Termination without cause in a situation with an implied contract
Employees vs. Contractors
It’s important to understand that only employees may file a wrongful termination suit against employers — independent contractors are not afforded the same protections. However, the line between employee and contractor has been shifting in recent years. California jurisdictions, for example, have been pushing to classify ridesharing drivers as employees. For example, a law was passed in California which states that a worker is presumed to be an employee unless the employer proves otherwise. To prove a worker is an independent contractor, the employer has to show that the worker is free from control of the employer, that the worker performs work outside the usual business of the employer, and the worker has an independent trade for the type of work performed. If the employer cannot prove these three things, the worker is an employee.
Employees with contracts (written or verbal) are also in a stronger position in terms of job protections. Employers may not break these covenants and fire employees unless that employee willfully breaches, habitually neglects or is unable to perform her job duties.
The Laws Protecting Californians
Californians are protected from unlawful discrimination by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which outlines a long list of reasons why an employee may not be removed from a job (including those listed above). In addition to prohibiting termination, FEHA also specifies that employers may not create a hostile environment for members of a protected class, or seek to undermine or disadvantage their career prospects.
It should also be noted that all Californians, regardless of immigration status, are covered by state employment law. It is illegal to discriminate against a worker due to national origin, or privilege a citizen over a non-citizen.
Californians, like all Americans, are also protected by federal laws and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Prevailing in Court
If you’ve been terminated under a scenario much like those described above, you may be able to seek compensation via the legal system. When pursuing these cases, the litigant must typically show that the employer was motivated — fully or in part — by improper reasons. In most cases, the illegal discrimination associated with the firing must be shown to be a substantial motivating factor. Fired employees, however, do not need to show that discrimination was the sole reason for the termination.
If you’re in a situation where discrimination is occurring but you’ve yet to be fired, it’s important to consider the ramifications of your eventual exit. Generally speaking, if you quit as the result of discrimination, rather than being fired, it weakens your claim. However, you may be able to claim relief under the “constructive discharge” doctrine, which can be invoked when employers make working conditions so intolerable that quitting and being fired are essentially treated as the same thing under the law.
Finding the Right Wrongful Discrimination Attorney
If you’ve been wrongfully terminated — or you believe you’re about to be the victim or a wrongful termination — it’s imperative to speak with an experienced employment law attorney. The right attorney can evaluate your case and outline the steps you need to take in order to pursue a successful claim.
At L&B Law Group, we’ve been winning trials for more than 30 years, and we have the experience to handle even the most complex cases. Contact us today for a consultation.
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