In California there are two types of workers: at-will employees and contract employees. Most workers are at-will employees, meaning that they do not have a contract to work for a specified period of time.
In order to fire a contract employee, an employer must have good cause under the terms of the contract. For instance, the employment contract may have a morals clause which allows the employer to fire the employee if he or she is convicted of a crime. If the employee is fired for reasons other than what is allowed by the contract, the employee would have cause to sue the employer for breach of contract.
In contrast, at-will employees can be terminated for almost any reason at any time. The employee does not have a right to employment and can be fired without notice. The only time it is unlawful for an employer to fire an at-will employee is when the termination is done for an impermissible reason.
Wrongful terminations include any termination motivated by a person’s protected status. A protected status can be a person’s race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or similar qualities. In addition to a person’s protected status, it is also illegal to fire an employee in retaliation for engaging in protected activities, like complaining about workplace safety hazard, unpaid wages, or other labor code violations. Finally, a termination may be wrongful if it is done for a reason that violates public policy. If society agrees that firing a person for a certain reason is unfair, like taking time off work to serve jury duty or to serve in the National Guard, then a court may find the termination wrongful.
If such an impermissible reason is a substantial motivating factor in the decision to fire an employee, then the termination is illegal. Even if the employee is also terminated for another reason, that employee may still be able to file a lawsuit. For example, if a person needs to miss work often to get medical treatments for a disability, it could be impermissible to fire a person on that basis. If the same employee is also fired for a legitimate cause, the employee would still be able to seek damages from the employer if the employer was at least partially motivated by the problems caused by the employee’s disability.
As long as the impermissible reason for the termination is more than a trivial or remote factor in the employer’s decision, the employee may have a case. For that reason, employees who believe that their termination may have been motivated by impermissible factors should speak with an experienced Los Angeles Wronful Termination attorney.
Sacramento, CA 95821