California employees are protected by state and federal law from wrongful termination, even if they are “at will” employees without an employment contract. Of course, not every firing of an employee is illegal, and employers have the freedom to terminate employees for legitimate issues such as work performance and budget-cutting. But when employers present such “lawful” reasons for termination as an excuse for what was actually an illegal reason, then the wrongfully terminated employee can bring a lawsuit for financial damages and injunctive relief, such as reinstatement into their previous role, through obtaining a wrongful termination settlement.
How a Wrongful Termination Claim is Started
Illegal reasons for firing an employee, which can thus result in a successful wrongful termination suit, include termination on the basis of:
- Race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation
- Pregnancy status
- Disability when reasonable accommodations can be made
- Retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions or other workplace violations (e.g. wage and hour, failure to provide sick leave)
- Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment
If you have been fired for any of these reasons, your first step will be to work with an experienced employment law attorney to collect initial evidence documenting your illegal firing and present it to a court via your employment law claim.
At that point, your employer may settle with you, but they may also fight the claim by offering a lawful reason for why you were fired. In such a case, your employment law attorney will work to counter the employer's argument by showing it was simply a false excuse or “pretext” for your firing.
Common Pretexts Used by Employers
An employer might come up with any excuse imaginable in an attempt to justify your firing. Below are a few of the more common ones that arise in wrongful termination litigation:
- Delinquency, absences, etc: Employers often point to an employee's absence or consistent lateness as a pretext for wrongful termination. This requires examining whether such claims are indeed accurate and/or whether the employer tolerated such issues in the past or with other employees.
- Job performance: An employer might argue that a terminated employee's performance on the job was the actual reason, but if your performance was at a similar level or even superior to past performance, this may be the sign of a pretextual reason as cover for an illegal reason.
- Business necessity: Employers may also say that there was actually no performance or behavioral fault on the part of the employee, but rather that business demands of cutting costs or lack of the need of the position prompted the firing. But when there is no evidence of a business reason justifying this excuse, a court may find that it is a pretext, supporting the employee's claim.
Talk to an employment law attorney in your jurisdiction regarding the circumstances of your termination to determine whether you may have a potential wrongful termination claim.
Contact a Pasadena Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
The Law Offices of Brian I. Vogel represents California workers in helping them win justice and financial recovery through wrongful termination actions as well as other employment law actions. With three decades of experience in bringing hundreds of actions on behalf of California workers, Brian Vogel has the skills, tenacity, and deep knowledge of California and federal employment law to fight for justice on your behalf. Contact him today to schedule a consultation regarding your wrongful termination.