In most of the U.S., employers are free to terminate employment for virtually any reason and often for no reason at all. While California offers more protection to workers, most employees are subject to the whims of their employers. Still, not all terminations of employment are lawful.
If you have been a victim of wrongful termination, you probably also have a right to take legal action against your former employer. Still, it can be difficult to know whether termination is unlawful or perfectly fine, especially when you are reeling from losing your job.
When is a termination wrongful?
While most employers enjoy broad flexibility to compose the workforce that best meets their needs, there are some exceptions. Specifically, there are certain rationales most employers can never use to justify firing a worker.
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, a number of state and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against workers. If your employer fires you because of a discriminatory reason or to retaliate against you for a protected activity, your termination is probably wrongful.
Do you have an employment contract?
Most employees in California do not have employment contracts. If you have one, though, the agreement might dictate when and how your employer may terminate your employment. Breaching your employment contract in some meaningful way may constitute wrongful termination.
Do you have a disability?
Finally, if you have a disability, you probably also have a legal right to request reasonable accommodations from your employer. If your employer fires you instead of providing you with reasonable accommodations, your termination is probably wrongful.
Ultimately, because there is a statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful termination claim, it is important to undertake a legal and factual analysis of your termination as soon as you can.