Wrongful termination is a prevalent problem in the workplace. Most states, including California, allow At-Will employees, which means they can be terminated without proper cause. Their employers are also not obliged to disclose their termination. Given this scenario, how can one tell the difference between the acceptable grounds for termination and unfair or wrongful termination? Read on to find out what wrongful termination is and how to determine which reasons for termination are either acceptable or unlawful.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Companies in California do not prohibit employers from terminating employees as long as their reasons are not violating any law or public policy. Given this scenario, how can one consider the reason for his or her termination as unjust? Wrongful termination claims can be based on the following:
Termination out of Discrimination
This involves being fired merely because of discrimination. In California, the law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), disability (physical or mental), age (40 and older), genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, AIDS/HIV, medical condition, political activities or affiliations, military or veteran status, and
status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking. These are otherwise known as the ‘protected classes’ in California.
Termination from Retaliation for Whistleblowing
There will be times when a company you work for has all sorts of wrongdoings happening beyond the surface. An employee can file a claim or tell the authorities about these illegal acts. When an employer fires an employee for doing the right thing regarding these unlawful actions, it can be considered as retaliation for whistleblowing and can be grounds for wrongful termination.
Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act Asked by an Employer
If you refuse to do an illegal act for a superior, employee, or the company and get fired from doing so, it can be grounds for a lawsuit. This scenario is somewhat similar to retaliation for whistleblowing as the employee who refused to do the illegal act was acting based on his or her better judgment and was only following the law.
What Doesn’t Count as Wrongful Termination?
Most employees in the United States are employed at will. Being at-will employees means companies can fire or let go of employees for any reason or no reason at all, given that their decision is not discriminatory to the employee. Some companies would characterize the termination as a ‘layoff’ to avoid the risk of providing a reason that might turn out to be discriminatory. Employers are also not obliged to give employees who are about to be fired a second chance or an opportunity to correct issues that may have caused their termination.
Acceptable reasons as to why employers can terminate their employees include but are not limited to the following:
- Employees can terminate workers who are unproductive, have a poor work ethic, or have a subpar quality of work.
- Dishonest and delinquent employees can be terminated within reason. These delinquencies include a disregard for company rules or defiance of those in authority
- Workers who have frequent absences and chronic tardiness can be terminated
- Criminal behavior, including theft and breaching contract agreements, such as publicizing confidential papers and data, can be grounds for termination.
- Discriminatory behavior like sexual harassment, racism, and similar acts can lead an employee to be terminated.
- Employers can terminate employees who commit threats and actual acts of physical violence against fellow employees.
All these unpleasant behaviors are impediments to having a healthy and productive business as they can reduce effectiveness, affect profits, and foster a hostile environment or a lowered morale in the workplace. These scenarios are why employers have the right to terminate employees who hinder the growth and profit of the company.
Questions to Ask Before Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim
As with any lawsuit, pursuing a wrongful termination claim takes time and effort from both parties involved. Before you call an employment attorney or a wrongful termination lawyer to help you with your claim, make sure you gather as much evidence as you can to build a solid case. Here are some questions that can help you determine whether or not your claim is valid and worth pursuing:
Was the termination a result of discrimination?
Discrimination is the primary factor that causes wrongful termination. If this is so, you will have to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before filing a job discrimination claim against your former employer within 180 days from the date of the incident.
Is your goal for suing realistic?
It is essential to know what your goals are when it comes to the lawsuit. Are you after the money or do you wish for your employer’s behavior to change for the colleagues you left behind? Do you simply want the satisfaction of knowing that your former employer won’t get away with their wrongful actions? Whatever your reason is, you must first consult with your wrongful termination whether or not your goals are within reason to file a complaint.
Are your time, effort, and money worth pursuing the case?
As with most lawsuits, filing a wrongful termination claim can take a lot of time and money. Lawyers are not cheap, and employers may have in-house lawyers who will initiate a lot of delays and postponements designed to wear you down. You may also talk to your lawyer about possible settlements to be made with your employer instead of going to a trial.
Call a Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
Whether you plan to sue your employer or not, you should consult with your HR about all the post-termination proceedings. This involves exercising your rights as a former employee, from claiming your last paycheck, fixing your health care benefits, and the like. This is also the ideal time to ask your employer for documents to verify your employment history as well as other forms of unemployment benefits that you may be entitled to have.
Jobs are hard to come by nowadays, and to be fired for the wrong reasons is unfair and unacceptable. Don’t be afraid to file for a wrongful termination claim if you think that it was done out of a particular form of discrimination. If you are ready to file a lawsuit, do not hesitate to ask for proper legal advice from Mesriani Law Group’s seasoned employment lawyers and wrongful termination attorneys who will ensure you get the justice you deserve. Call our lawyers today and schedule a free consultation.