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Unlawful Firing in California – Employee Rights

Written By: Mo Eldessouky Updated On: May 6, 2024 | Read Time: 5 Minutes

Unlawful firing of an employee is an action where an employer terminates the employment of an employee without good cause. Another name for unlawful firing is wrongful termination. California employees are legally protected from unlawful firing by both state and federal laws.

In some cases, staff may get fired inappropriately for little or no reason at all. Sometimes, it may be due to some form of discrimination against the employee. This might be based on race, religion, age or even gender.

Labor laws are put in place for the overall welfare of workers and also protect them in the case of illegal terminations. However, some employers will defy these laws and proceed to terminate workers illegally.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your employment, it is wise to consult with a California Employment lawyer about possible legal action for your unlawful firing.

Can a Lawyer Help with an Unlawful Firing in California?

Yes, an experienced employment lawyer can help with an unlawful firing in California. An employment lawyer can help determine whether or not the firing was unlawful and the potential remedies available. An employment lawyer can also help with filing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in court.

How Do I Know if I Was Unlawfully Fired?

If you feel that you were wrongfully fired from your job, you should first contact your state’s labor department to determine if your firing was done in accordance with state and federal laws. You may also want to seek legal counsel to discuss your situation further. A California wrongful termination lawyer can not only asses whether your termination was lawful, but also advise you on your next course of action. They can help you determine if you have a valid claim for wrongful termination and the best way to pursue a remedy.

Below are some of the 5 most common reasons for illegal termination at work in California:

1. Discrimination

California’s workplace laws disqualify any “discriminatory” reasons as a lawful excuse to fire staff at will.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is California’s top anti-discrimination law that caters to workers. It emphasizes employers discriminating against their staff based on;

  • a) Age; For employees past the age of forty.
  • b) Race; Hispanic, Black, country of origin.
  • c) Religion; Islam and Christian etc.
  • d) Marital Status; married, single or divorced.
  • e) Stance On sexuality; LGBTQ or heterosexual.
  • f) Military or veteran status.

It is not allowed for employers to demonstrate a bias towards workers of a certain class. It is, also, not recognized as a lawful reason to terminate a worker’s contract if the reason may be discriminatory in nature. Violators of certain sections of the FEHA will be fined.

2. Revenge (Employer Retaliation)

Employees might wish to make a complaint about their employer and their behavior. Most labor laws in California protect employees from being picked on or laid off as a result of reporting their employer for negative behavior.

Some likely scenarios in which the laws exempt staff from being illegally terminated in California include:

  • a) Employers defaulting on wages
  • b) Employers engaging in unlawful activities
  • c) Raising complaints in the event of workplace conditions that might pose a risk to safety

Other situations include disclosure of income to other employees and disclosure of company working conditions. This applies only to certain information that is not legally protected, such as trade secrets.

3. Taking Time Off

There are many benefits attached to most jobs such as HMOs, sick leaves and maternity leaves amongst others. Employees are entitled to take these leaves when requested as long as they are eligible for it.

When an employer decides to terminate staff for taking one of such leaves, it is considered illegal. Some of the most common types of leaves entitled to employees are:

  • a) Medical and family leave for a period of up to 3 months.
  • b) Leave on the grounds of a serious health challenge of a close relative, after the employee has fulfilled certain requirements.
  • c) Paid sick leave which employees have the right to take accrued leaves at once.
  • d) Nursing mother taking a lactation break. This is the time of the day when the mother is free to breastfeed.

Other leaves for which an employee is entitled to include; military leave, time off to vote amongst others. The laws of California do not permit an employer to lay off staff for taking any of these aforementioned leaves when necessary.

4. Violation of Public Policy

There are cases where an employee fires staff for reasons, which do not violate the law. However, the employer might have breached a fundamental public policy. Cases such as this still provide illegal claims for firing a staff.

A situation that violates public policy is when staff is laid off for refusing to do something illegal or inappropriate. Several types of illegal terminations violate public policy under California’s labor laws.

5. Violation of the Employment Contract

Employment in California is said to be “at-will” by default. This means the employee is free to leave the job any time, and the employer can also lay them off at any time. This includes reasons considered lawful and unlawful.

This presents a kind of tricky situation. Your boss could arrive after an argument with his spouse and fire the first worker who upsets him that morning. The employee cannot claim this being an illegal reason to be laid off. At the same time, it does not count as being unlawful.

However, some employees sign contracts with their bosses. A reason such as a breach of contract or negligence of duty is a lawful reason to terminate one’s employment. In this instance, termination of the employees appointment is only permissible when the clearly stated contract in the terms is breached.

If You Were Unlawfully Fired, You Have Rights

Finally, working in California has state laws that cater to employees. Though employers exercise lots of power, you have the ability, as an employee, to speak up when you feel you have been fired unjustly. Some cases of illegal employment termination may be settled in court or out of court.

What is important is that employees who are illegally terminated are adequately compensated or reinstated.

If you would like to learn more about California’s state laws aside from labor laws, reach out to us today.

At Eldessouky Law our attorneys have delivered excellent results repeatedly. We are a full-service litigation law firm and our attorneys are fully prepared to handle all aspects of litigation.

If you have questions about your rights as an employee in California or wish to discuss your case confidentially with one of our experienced employment attorneys, contact our office at 714-409-8991 or fill out one of our contact forms online.

We are available for video conference calls

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