Omid Nosrati

What is wrongful termination?

Getting fired from your job is always a stressful event. It is even worse when the reason for your termination seems totally unfair. If you're honest and you work hard, your employer is supposed to treat you well, right?

Sometimes, getting fired is more than just unfair - it is illegal. Here is how the law works in California.

"At-will" doesn't mean "no rules"

Most jobs follow the rules of "at-will" employment. Broadly, this means that employees are free to quit their jobs at any time, and that employers have broad power to end a worker's employment.

But, this power is not unlimited. It is illegal to fire an at-will employee for one of the following reasons:

  • Discrimination: California law prohibits firing someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability or any other protected characteristic. Similarly, employers cannot fire workers simply because they asked for reasonable accommodations for their disability or religious practices.
  • Legal use of benefits: Employees in California have a right to take leave to care for their own health issue or to care for an unwell family member. Parents also have a right to take leave when a new child joins the family. Not everyone is eligible for leave, but employers may not fire workers for taking or requesting a leave to which they are legally entitled.
  • Retaliation: Everyone deserves a safe and fair working environment. The law forbids retaliation against workers who report harassment, health and safety risks, pay and overtime violations, and similar issues. Workers cannot be fired for making good-faith reports of improper conduct.

Contracts may offer stronger protections

It is also forbidden to fire contractual employees for the reasons noted above. In addition, the employment contract may set stricter restrictions on when the employee may be terminated. For example, the contract may be for a specific duration, or it may say that the employee can only be terminated "for good cause."

It is always good to investigate

In situations where an employee is fired for an illegal reason, he or she may receive a false reason for the termination instead of the real reason. For example, an employer may start to give an employee projects they will never be able to succeed at. Perhaps the employer will say there are "personality conflicts" with management. Sometimes, an employer won't give any reason at all.

You don't have to sit back and let your employer violate your rights. If something feels wrong, it is always a good idea to schedule a consultation with an employment attorney. The attorney can review your case and let you know what your options are for moving forward.

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Omid Nosrati
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Los Angeles, CA 90067-2501

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