the myth of AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT
Most employees in California are considered "at-will," meaning an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason. Despite an employee's at-will status, California law allows an employee to bring a wrongful termination claim when the reason for the employee's termination violates a California public policy. A "Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy" claim typically occurs when the reason for termination is a based on an employee's protected characteristic ("Discrimination Wrongful Termination Claim") or in retaliation for an employee's activity that is protected under the California Labor Code ("Labor Code Wrongful Termination Claim").
What Is A "Discrimination wrongful termination Claim"?
A discrimination wrongful termination claim occurs when an employer terminates or refuses to hire an employee because of the employee's actual or perceived protected characteristic. Below is a list of classes that are protected from discrimination under California law.
- Religious Creed
- National Origin
- Physical or Mental Disability
- Medical Condition
- Genetic Information
- Marital Status
- Gender Identity/Gender Expression
- Sexual Orientation
- Military or Veteran Status
- Age (40 or over)
It is also unlawful for an employer to terminate or refuse to hire an employee who is “associated with” someone, i.e., spouse or family member, with any one of the above protected characteristics.
WHAT IS A "Labor Code WRONGFUL TERMINATION CLAIM"?
California law prohibits employers from terminating employees who have engaged in conduct that is specifically protected under the California Labor Code. For instance, it is wrongful to retaliate against an employee for engaging in the activities listed below.
- For reporting or refusing to participate in illegal activity. Labor Code Section 1102.5
- For engaging in lawful conduct away form the employer's premises. Labor Code Section 96(k)
- For taking time off to serve on a jury or appearing as a witness in court. Labor Code Section 230(a) and (b)
- For being a victim of a crime. Labor Code Section 230.2(b)
- For being a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault. Labor Code Section 230(c)
- For taking time off to appear at your child's school Labor Code Section 230.7
- For discussing your wages to other people. Labor Code Section 232(a) and (b)
- For engaging in political activity. Labor Code Section 1101 and 1102.
WHAT ARE YOU ENTITLED TO RECOVER IN A WRONGFUL TERMINATION CASE?
- All lost wages, income, earnings or salary you lost, and will lose in the future, as the result of your termination
- Monetary compensation for your past and future mental suffering, inconvenience, anxiety, humiliation, and emotional distress
- Punitive damages to deter your employer from engaging in similar conduct in the future
Brock & Gonzales, LLP specializes in wrongful termination claims. If you feel your employment has been wrongfully terminated, contact us to set up a free consultation.