Getting fired is always difficult, and the terminated employee often feels the decision was unjustified. However, not every termination that seems unfair constitutes wrongful termination. Most employees may be terminated “at-will.” This means that employers generally have the right to fire you at any time and without a good reason.
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee unlawfully. This may involve illegal discrimination, retaliation for a protected action, or breach of contract.
Grounds for Wrongful Termination Claims
There are three main types of wrongful termination claims: discrimination, retaliatory discharge and termination in violation of contract terms.
Discrimination as Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Suit
Local, state and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on an employee’s age, race, color, religion, gender, disability, pregnancy, or national origin. California law extends those categories to protect even more workers. For example, in California an employer may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Termination based on one of these protected classifications may give rise to a wrongful discharge claim, in addition to other possible discrimination claims.
State and federal laws protect employees who have reported certain violations to their superiors at work or to government agencies, or who have pursued claims or cooperated in government investigations. Some common examples are reports of violations of labor law, unsafe practices, and violations of environmental protection laws. An employee who is terminated in retaliation for this type of protected activity may have a claim for wrongful termination, in addition to other remedies provided by the relevant statute.
Termination in Breach of Contract
While employers can generally terminate an employee for any reason or no reason, so long as the
reason isn’t discriminatory or otherwise unlawful, that changes when the company enters into a contract with an employee or establishes internal policies that govern when and how an employee may be terminated.
For example, if your contract states “for cause” termination only, and the employer terminates you without cause, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination suit in addition to any breach of contract claim. Similarly, if the company handbook states that an employee will receive three written warnings before termination, and you only received two warnings before being fired, you might have a case for wrongful termination.
An Experienced Wrongful Termination Lawyer Can Help
If you were fired and feel you have a wrongful termination case because of discrimination, retaliation, or breach of contract or company policy, talk with an employment law attorney. Proving wrongful termination is a complicated matter, and a missed deadline or misunderstanding of the procedure can damage or even put an end to your claim. An attorney who is experienced in wrongful termination cases and thoroughly understands the law can be your best protection.
Call us today to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your rights and options.