When Is A Termination In California Unlawful?

The majority of workers in California are voluntary “at will” employees. “At will” means that employers have the right to fire or demote an employee for any legal reason without having to provide “just cause” for the action. Employees, similarly, can quit or resign from their positions when they want.

Exceptions To “At Will” Employment Status

“At will” employment status under the California Labor Code includes the following employees:

  • Public or government employees
  • Employees with a written, verbal or implied contract
  • Employees belonging to a union

In some cases an employee’s status can change to “at will” during the course of employment. If, for example, a temporary employee receives verbal notification they can continue in the position, an implied verbal contract is in effect and the employee is now “at will.” A Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer can help you determine your employee status.

Unlawful Termination For “At Will” Employees

The California “at will” employment policy does not allow employee termination for any of the following reasons:

Determining Unlawful “At Will” Termination

A Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney is best qualified to investigate your possible unlawful termination. Some of the factors to look at, assuming your job performance is satisfactory, include:

  • Any employee job status change – “At will” or protected
  • Any written, verbal or implied agreements protecting your job status
  • Company policies in handbooks, manuals, other printed materials
  • Status of employees in similar positions
  • Performance evaluations

Unlawful Termination Damages

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, a former employee can only sue their employer for wrongful termination – not managers, supervisors, other employees or the board of directors. Retaliation and harassment claims are permissible against a former manager after asserting a protected right.

Recoverable damages in a California unlawful termination can include compensation for lost wages and the value of lost benefits. In cases of termination based on unlawful discrimination or retaliation, former employees can also recover emotional distress damages, attorney fees and potential punitive damages.