Written by: John Dalton
| Read Time: 4 minutes

When it comes to employment termination, California is generally an at-will state. What does at-will employment mean? At-will employment means that an employer can fire you at any time for no reason. And as an at-will employee, you can quit your job at any time for no reason. However, despite California’s at-will employment law, your employer cannot fire you for an illegal reason. There are several wrongful termination laws in California that outline what types of job terminations will subject an employer to legal penalties.  

If you have recently experienced the devastation of an unfair job loss, the Law Offices of John Dalton can help you obtain legal relief and hold your former employer accountable for its wrongs. John Dalton is an experienced attorney who does not tolerate businesses that disrespect employee rights, and he has the skill to protect individuals who have been wronged by their bosses. 

What Is Wrongful Termination?

If you have questions about what qualifies as wrongful termination in California and whether you have a claim, speak to an experienced attorney immediately. There are basically two types of wrongful termination in California: termination that violates state or federal laws; and termination that violates the terms of an employment contract. 

Job Terminations that Violate State or Federal Laws

There are several California and United States laws that protect employees from employment discrimination and adverse employment actions that violate public policy. Among these anti-discrimination laws and laws that protect employee rights are: 

  • California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, 
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act, 
  • California’s Equal Pay Act,
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 
  • California’s workers’ compensation laws,
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 
  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA), 
  • State and federal whistleblower protection laws,
  • California’s Paid Sick Leave Law, 
  • Occupational Safety and Health laws, 
  • The California Labor Code; and
  • State and federal wage and hour laws. 

The many protections under these laws protect most workers. So, if you are an at-will employee, do not assume that you don’t have grounds to question the legality of a job termination. 

Discriminatory Firings

Your employer cannot fire you or take any other adverse action against you for discriminatory reasons. A job termination is discriminatory and illegal if it is motivated by one of the following protected characteristics: 

  • Age (40 and older), 
  • Ancestry,
  • Color,
  • Creed,
  • Disability
  • Gender,
  • Genetics, 
  • Marital status, 
  • Medical condition,
  • Military status, 
  • Nationality, 
  • Race, 
  • Religion, 
  • Sex (including sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), or
  • Veteran status. 

By filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a complaint with the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH), or a civil lawsuit, you can reverse an illegal termination or receive compensation and other relief for it. 

Firings Against Public Policy

The law also forbids your employer from terminating you for engaging in legally protected activities. Employee activities that are protected by law include:  

  • Initiating a complaint for unpaid wages; 
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim after suffering a workplace injury; 
  • Asserting your rights under the CFRA or FMLA to take job-protected leave to address serious personal or family needs (in most cases, you should receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, though some serious issues entitle you to 26 weeks);
  • Participating in a complaint or investigation against workplace discrimination; 
  • Exposing or participating in an investigation against unlawful practices at work (i.e., whistleblowing); 
  • Asserting your right to accrue and use paid sick leave (in general, you should receive at least 24 hours off each year);
  • Refusing to engage in illegal activity at work; 
  • Participating in an investigation or complaint against a workplace safety violation;
  • Addressing matters related to surviving domestic violence or other criminal harms; and 
  • Engaging in certain civic activities, such as jury duty, first responder service, or military service. 

Your employer might try to argue that your termination was the result of your misconduct when its motivation is discriminatory or against public policy, but an attorney can expose this pretext and hold your employer accountable for illegal termination. Whether your employer tries to give a legal reason for your termination, speak to an experienced wrongful termination attorney immediately to help ensure you receive legal redress for mistreatment. 

Job Terminations that Violate Employment Contracts

Not every employee is an at-will employee. Some employees enter employment agreements with the businesses, agencies, or organizations that hire them. An employment agreement might dictate that your employment lasts for a specific period of time or that you can be fired only for particular reasons. If your employer fails to comply with the terms of your employment agreement when firing you, you can sue it for breach of contract. Analyzing and resolving breach of contract matters can be complex and should be handled by a skilled attorney. 

Speak to an Attorney Today

A job termination can be an incredibly painful event, even more so if the termination is against the law. At the Law Offices of John Dalton, we have over 25 years of experience and can help vindicate you against unlawful firing. John Dalton is dedicated to holding employers that mistreat their employees legally accountable. John has also had unprecedented success in battling the unlawful actions of several California employers; he has won some of the largest employment law verdicts in the state.
If you need a strong advocate against illegal termination, call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation

    “I highly respect John and his dedication and integrity. You will not be disappointed.” John Dalton went to work for me and delivered great results. I wasn’t sure what to do and when I found John, he explained everything nicely and he was able to get me the settlement I truly deserved. He was easy to work with and I always felt like I was kept in the loop - it was really fantastic service all around. - Steve K.
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