wrongful termination lawyer

Job loss can feel personal, no matter the reason. After an unlawful termination, like discrimination or retaliation, a Lancaster wrongful termination lawyer at the Law Office of John Dalton will support you.

When Can Employees Be Legally Terminated in California?

Like many states, California has “at-will” employment. Employers may terminate an employee at any time, with or without cause or prior notice. Under California law, a good cause for termination of employment means a fair and honest cause or reason motivated by the employer’s good faith. The justice system would be overwhelmed if employers had to prove that each termination was “fair” and “in good faith.” However, the state recognizes several exceptions to at-will employment. Specifically, an employer cannot fire you for reasons that violate a law or public policy. 

What Is Wrongful Termination?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from terminating an employee for an unlawful reason. Discrimination and retaliation are unlawful under FEHA. Unlawful termination also includes a discharge made for reasons against public policy.

Discrimination

A termination based on an employee’s association with a protected class is discrimination. Specifically, federal laws prohibit termination based on an employee’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prosecutes discrimination at the federal level.

In California, FEHA protects additional characteristics, including ancestry, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, age, sexual orientation, or veteran or military status. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces FEHA in California.

If your employer was substantially motivated to terminate your employment because of your protected characteristics, you likely experienced a wrongful termination. 

Retaliation

Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit termination when used as retaliation. This means that an employer may not terminate an employee for opposing discriminatory employment practices or filing a discrimination complaint. Additionally, testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit brought under these laws is protected. Known as whistleblower protections, any conduct that could “dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting” a complaint is unlawful.

Public Policy

Some reasons for terminating an employee are against public policy in California. Unlawful reasons for discharging an employee include:

  • The employee refuses to follow the employer’s instructions to violate the law;
  • The employee took time off for jury duty when the employee gave reasonable notice;
  • The employee took time off to vote;
  • The employee needs time off to serve in the military or National Guard;
  • The employee is a victim of a crime and needs time off to appear as a witness in court;
  • The employee took time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, reserve police officer, or emergency rescue personnel;
  • The employee is a parent or guardian of a student and took time off to appear at the student’s school after a request made under the Education Code;
  • The employee disclosed their salary, wages, or working conditions;
  • The employee took accrued, available sick leave;
  • The employee took a leave of absence for organ or bone marrow donation; 
  • The employee’s wages are subject to garnishment; and
  • The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim for an injury sustained on the job. 

In addition, you cannot be terminated without reason if you have an implied or express contract requiring good cause. An employer can create an implied contract by promising ongoing employment through verbal assurances. The employer’s handbooks, policies, or other guarantees can also create an implied contract.

Constructive Termination

In addition to an actual termination based on unlawful reasons, anti-discrimination laws also prohibit constructive termination. Constructive termination occurs when an employer takes action to make the employee so uncomfortable that they have no choice but to quit. Examples of constructive termination include:

  • Reducing the employee’s pay or not paying them at all;
  • If an employee is subjected to harassment or discrimination such that they can no longer tolerate it;
  • Eliminating other employee benefits, such as a company car;
  • Demoting an employee without adequate notice;
  • Transferring an employee to an undesirable location or assignment;
  • Changing an employee’s working hours inappropriately; or
  • Forcing an employee to work in conditions that violate health and safety regulations.

When making a constructive discharge claim, you must prove that a reasonable person in the same conditions would have no alternative except to resign.

How Can Our Lancaster Wrongful Termination Attorneys Help You?

If you’ve experienced wrongful termination, we can help you defend your rights. Under FEHA and federal anti-discrimination laws, victims of discrimination and retaliation can recover damages for wrongful termination. We can help you collect lost wages and benefits, compensation for pain and suffering, and attorney’s fees. Punitive damages, a form of punishment, are also available in especially egregious cases. When you reach out to us, we will listen to your situation, advise you on your rights, and dive deep into investigating the facts.  

Stop searching for “wrongful termination lawyer near me” and call or email the Law Office of John Dalton now.

Our experienced lawyer also handles other types of employment cases including: