Employers in California usually have a say in which employees they will keep on and which ones they will let go. Hiring and firing is just part of the business world. A firing, though, can be a significant blow to the individual losing his or her job. It is normal to have questions about it, particularly if one is trying to determine if it was a wrongful termination. How do you know if your employer was within his or her right to fire you?
Wrongful termination cases can be tricky. Employers do everything they can to protect themselves when they fire employees. This does not mean that it is impossible to fight a wrongful termination case. There is usually evidence somewhere that helps the victim if a wrongful termination actually occurred.
Employment status matters
Most employees in the United States are at-will employees. This means that their employers can fire them for any reason and at any time -- for the most part. These employees lack protections generally offered in employment contracts. However, this does not mean they have zero protections or rights. The firing of these employees cannot violate state or federal laws.
If you have an employment contract and lose your job, it may be possible to claim breach of contract on top of wrongful termination -- depending on the reason for your firing and the terms of your contract.
Reasons an employer cannot fire you
There are a number of reasons employers cannot fire their employees. Two of them include:
All employees, whether they are at-will or contract employees, have the right to work in a discrimination-free environment. Employers cannot fire someone based on:
- Sexual orientation
All employees also have protection from retaliation in the workplace. It is illegal for an employer to punish an employee for taking part in activities deemed protected, such as:
- Taking medical leave
- Filing a harassment complaint
- Filing a discrimination complaint
- Reporting illegal activities happening at their place of work
- Filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
There are several other protected activities, but you probably get the gist. Firing someone over poor job performance is one thing, but firing that person for using benefits, for being who they are or for filing complaints is not okay.
In wrongful termination cases, there may be a build-up of events that make one's firing questionable, or there may not. No matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, if you feel something is off about your termination, you certainly have the right to question it and seek compensation for your losses, if it is appropriate to do so.