California employers have every right to hire and fire at-will employees. However, if employers do not give a worker a specific reason for letting them go, the employee may retaliate with a wrongful termination claim.

Here is a closer look at some situations that could give employees the grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Three common situations that could lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit

Many situations could lead to a wrongful termination claim. However, employees most commonly claim they were wrongfully terminated based on:

  1. Discrimination: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is probably the most well-known law that outlines illegal reasons to terminate an employee. It states that employers cannot fire an employee based on protected statuses, such as their gender, race or religion, to name a few. If an employee can prove their employer terminated their employment because of discrimination, the employer may be subject to punishment at both the state and federal level.
  2. Retaliation: Federal and state laws also say that employers cannot fire an employee as a form of punishment. If employers terminate employment because an employee engaged in certain protected activities, such as whistleblowing or filing a sexual harassment claim, the courts may find the employer guilty of retaliation.
  3. Contract language: Employment contracts outline the worker’s responsibilities, duties and benefits. This contract binds both the employee and the employer. If the contract contains any language that even hints at job security, a judge may determine that the employment was not, in fact, at will. Additionally, if the contract explicitly states that an employer may not fire the employee unless he or she fails to meet certain benchmarks, then, unfortunately, the employer cannot fire them for any other reason. In certain situations, verbal promises are also binding.

This is why employers must take great care when managing any personnel actions. They should take the time to understand California’s labor laws to ensure they comply. That way, they can avoid legal issues and risks to their business.

This article is for educational purposes only.