If you’ve recently been fired from your job under suspicious circumstances, you’re right to question whether your termination was justified. It’s true that employers have considerable leeway when deciding to let you go. They can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason, an unfair reason, or no reason at all. But an employer cannot terminate you for an unlawful reason. When an employer terminates you for an unlawful reason, an employment attorney can assist you in asserting a claim for wrongful termination.
At Custis Law, P.C., our Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers are dedicated to fighting for employees whose rights have been violated in the workplace. There are complex legal issues regarding when you can sue for wrongful termination, and exacting procedures for enforcing your rights in the workplace. Please call (213) 863-4276 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your situation and potential remedies. You may also find it helpful to review some important information about wrongful termination claims.
Overview of Wrongful Termination in California
At the outset, it’s important to understand the default “at-will” employment rule in California. Almost all employees in California are “at-will” employees. What does that mean? It means that you can quit anytime you want (although it’s good form to provide two weeks notice). It also means that your employer can terminate you at any time for almost any reason or no reason at all. But that does not mean an employer can terminate you for any reason. California law prohibits employers from terminating employees for unlawful reasons.
The unlawful reasons that support a wrongful termination claim fall into these categories:
Wrongful Termination for Discrimination: Los Angeles discrimination lawyers know that under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it’s unlawful if your employer’s decision to terminate you was substantially motivated by your membership in a protected class. Termination is unlawful if it’s based upon your race, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, marital status, sex, gender identity, and many other classifications listed in the FEHA statute.
Retaliatory Wrongful Termination: California laws also prohibit employers from firing employees in retaliation for exercising their legal rights in the workplace. For example, you have a right to be free from discrimination and unlawful harassment in the workplace. If your employer fires you after you have reported or complained about unlawful harassment or discrimination, you could assert a claim for retaliatory wrongful termination.
Violation of an Employment Contract: Employers are prohibited from breaching a contract with an employee. If you and your employer entered into an employment contract that provides that you will work for a specific time period, you are not considered an “at-will” employee. Instead, your contract should contain a termination provision that identifies the reasons that the employer can fire you. For example, the contract may provide that the employer can only fire you for committing a crime, willfully engaging in conduct that is materially injurious to the employer, or breaching the contract by failing to perform. If your employer fires you for a reason that is not outlined in the agreement, you could assert a wrongful termination claim based on your employer’s breach of the contract.
Wrongful Termination and Whistleblowing: When your employer takes adverse action against you for reporting unlawful conduct to management or to public officials, you may have a claim for wrongful termination on the basis of “whistleblowing.” Public policy encourages workers to report unlawful conduct. In California, the “whistleblowing” laws protect you even if you only report unlawful conduct in the workplace to a manager, supervisor or someone else at the company who has the authority to investigate the unlawful conduct. It’s illegal for your employer to fire you for reporting, or participating in an investigation, regarding:
- Illegal acts;
- Gross waste or mismanagement;
- Threats to public health and safety; and,
- Other misconduct.
A Los Angeles whistleblower attorney would be able to asses your case and determine whether or not you have a case for wrongful termination on the basis of whistleblowing.
Other Factors on When You Can Sue for Wrongful Termination
There are other considerations under California and federal law that affect your rights in a wrongful termination case based upon discrimination or harassment. For example:
Filing a Claim: You must first file a claim with either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before you can sue in court. This concept, termed “exhausting your administrative remedies,” requires you to work with these agencies as a prerequisite to initiating litigation. The employment attorneys at Custis Law, P.C. will file this claim on your behalf as part of our legal services for you.
Employer Size: State and federal laws on discrimination only apply to employers who have a minimum number of employees. To file a claim with DFEH, your employer must have at least five workers. For federal claims, there must be at least 15 employees working for your employer.
Time Limitations: There are strict time restrictions on filing a claim for wrongful termination due to discrimination or harassment. You must file with DFEH within one year after you believe you were fired for unlawful reasons, and the deadline for EEOC complaints is 300 days.
Contact a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to Discuss Wrongful Termination
For more information on when you can sue for wrongful termination, please contact Custis Law, P.C. You can set up a case evaluation with a Los Angeles employment lawyer by calling (213) 863-4276, or by using our online contact form. We can tell you more about your legal remedies for wrongful termination after reviewing the details of your claim. Our employment lawyers represent clients throughout Southern California from locations in Los Angeles, Irvine, and San Bernardino, and we look forward to working with you.