Wrongful Termination Lawsuits: Although firings based on discrimination or retaliation are far too prevalent in California, it is important to be aware of the fact that wrongful termination claims can arise from other unlawful conduct by your employer. Preliminarily, California is an “at-will” state which means that you or your employer can usually terminate the employment relationship for any reason which is not unlawful. A wrongful termination claim normally involves a scenario wherein an employer violates a statute, public policy or a written or oral employment agreement in ending your employment relationship. For example, an employer cannot terminate an employee for questioning or complaining about various wage issues or working conditions. (California Labor Code sections 98.6, 232 and 232.5). Due to the complex nature of claims for wrongful termination against public policy, it is important to contact an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to assess your claim.
Wrongful Termination Claims Based On Public Policy
All statutory violations by your employer do not support a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The statute or public policy must be for society at large as opposed to benefitting an individual employee or third party. For example, the Fair Employment & Housing Act or the California Fair Pay Act were specifically designed to protect employees from discrimination, retaliation or unequal pay because of their race, disability, sex or other protected classes. Although by no means an exhaustive list, below are common examples of circumstances wherein the termination of the employee is considered to have violated public policy:
- Retaliation for Objecting to the Employer’s Fraudulent Practices
- Refusing to Participate in Illegal Activities
- Reporting Unsafe Work Conditions or Perceived Discrimination
- Retaliation for Demanding Wages or Overtime Pay
- Refusing to Sign a Document that Illegally Waives your Rights
- Retaliation for Engaging in Political Activities Outside of the Workplace
- Any form of Discrimination Based on your Membership in a Protected Class
- Refusing to Participate or Protesting Discrimination
- Participating in an Investigation of Discrimination
In addition the violation of a statute or public policy, your wrongful termination claim must additionally establish that you were an employee and that a substantial motivating factor in the employer’s decision to terminate you violated public policy. Lastly, you must prove that you suffered damages as a result of the employer’s violation of the policy. It is not enough that your employer is committing crimes or unlawful activity that violates public policy. The employer’s violation must be directly tied to the termination of your employment. Assuming that you are able to establish such a link between your termination and the violated policy, you may be able to recover lost employment income and other benefits, emotional distress damages and potentially punitive damages to prevent your employer from harming other employees in the future. Call Perrin Law Group, a full service employment lawyer, for a free consultation to find out more about wrongful termination lawsuits and whether or not you have a case.