Wrongful termination is when an employee is terminated in violation of public policy. Because California is an At-Will state (as are all states except Montana), employers and employees can terminate their relationship at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. There are a few exceptions to at-will status, however. An employer cannot legally terminate someone due to their belonging to a protected class, or in retaliation for the employee reporting suspected illegal activity.
At-Will status means that the employer does not have to provide you a reason for your termination. However, this can work in favor of the employee as well. If you wish to end your employment with a company, you are not required to give notice a certain amount of time before your departure, nor do you have to explain the reason for your resignation.
Belonging to a protected class means you have a characteristic which cannot be targeted for discrimination. The following characteristics are considered “protected classes” per federal law:
Race (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
Religion (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
National Origin (Civil Rights Act of 1964)
Age – 40 and Over (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967)
Sex (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Pay Act of 1963)
– The EEOC includes Gender Presentation and Sexual Orientation under the category of Sex Discrimination
Disability Status (Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)
Genetic Information (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
No, your employer is not required to offer you a severance package if you are terminated, unless otherwise stipulated in a fully executed employment contract. If your employer does provide an offer of severance amount, be sure to read any accompanying documents thoroughly before accepting, as most of the time severance packages require you to release any claims you may have.
You should be eligible for unemployment compensation if you did not quit, or were not fired for misconduct. The EDD website states that misconduct has not been formally defined by legislature, but that unemployment benefits are “for persons involuntarily unemployed through no fault of their own . . . ‘fault’ means intentional action which the person who claims benefits foresees, or which it may be reasonably inferred he must have foreseen, would tend to produce or prolong a period of unemployment and from which a reasonable person in the claimant’s circumstances and with the claimant’s knowledge and understanding, desiring employment and foreseeing such loss of employment, would necessarily refrain.”
In the event of loss of employment, your former employers should offer you COBRA coverage.
There are several federal statutes and laws which intend to protect employees from workplace discrimination. The applicable laws vary depending on the type of discrimination you are facing. Some notable pieces of legislation include The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 respectively, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, The Equal Pay Act of 1963, or The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that have made a complaint regarding perceived discrimination or illegal activities. However, it can’t be guaranteed that you won’t experience any retaliation. If you do experience any form of retaliation (demotion, unreasonable work increase, cut hours, or termination) you should contact our firm for further assistance.
Employers technically aren’t required to give you any reason for termination at all, due to At-Will employment status. If you feel that the reason for termination was not true and may be evidence of a wrongful termination as defined above, you may want to contact our offices to see if you have a potential case.