California is an employment-at-will state. This means that either an employer or an employee may terminate employment at any time, with or without cause or prior notice. California's Labor Code contains a presumption that employees are employed at will. Yet, even at-will employees are protected by state and federal wrongful termination laws. The burden of proof is on the employee to show that the discharge was wrongful and, therefore, illegal.
Wrongful termination is typically defined as the discharge of a worker for an unlawful reason, usually some violation of federal or state law, or public policy. The damages that a worker may recover for a wrongful termination claim in California depend on the lawsuit. Generally, they include lost wages and benefits; compensation for emotional distress, as well as other pain and suffering that arises from the loss of your job; and even attorney’s fees.
Over time, California labor law has shaped several exceptions to the general rule of at-will employment The most common bases for lawsuits under California law are:
*Exceptions to “at-will” employment (e.g., violation of the provisions of an employment contract) include the following:
· An “implied contract” not to terminate employment without good cause;
· A breach by the employer of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing;
· Wrongful termination in violation of public policy. For example, the termination of an employee because the employee refused to help the employer violate the law.
*Termination for whistleblower activities
Whistleblower termination occurs when an employer fires an employee for reporting a potential violation of law by the employer to a government agency or law enforcement agency.
*Termination for exercising rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee for filing a complaint against, testifying about, or simply opposing harassment or discrimination.
*Constructive wrongful termination
Constructive wrongful termination occurs when an employer makes working conditions so intolerable for the employee that the employee must resign.
While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to terminations by private employers, California law mandates that employers cannot control or direct their employees’ political activities or speech. If they do, they are subject to an employee’s right to sue for wrongful discharge.
*WARN Act wrongful termination
California’s Worker Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to provide employees with sixty (60) days’ notice before conducting a mass layoff of fifty (50) or more employees or closing or relocating a facility. It applies to all employers with at least seventy-five (75) employees.
*Termination for filing a workers compensation claim or reporting a work injury
California Labor Code § 132a prohibits employers from terminating or discriminating against a worker as retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim.
*Termination for exercising rights under California employee leave laws
Federal and California laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who legally take leave from employment. Employees protected under California employee leave laws cannot be demoted for taking leave. Employers must allow the employee to return to the same or equivalent position after returning from qualified leave.
Employers rarely admit that they terminate an employee for an illegal reason. Typically, the employer will claim that the termination was for a lawful, although fictitious, reason. As a worker in California, you have many important rights that must be constantly safeguarded. Even in 2021, many California employers try to work around legal requirements to increase their profits.
If you believe that your employer is violating your rights, call Moss Bollinger for a free consultation to discuss solutions for asserting and defending these important, valuable rights. Moss Bollinger takes great pride in holding employers accountable for workplace violations that infringe upon the protections afforded every California worker by California law. Contact Moss Bollinger today at 866-942-7974 or reach us online.