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COVID-19 Layoffs and Terminations: What’s the Difference?

April 15, 2020 Legal Team

Like many other states, California has enacted statewide stay-at-home orders and recommended that residents follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on social distancing.

As more measures are implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus, nonessential businesses across the state have been ordered to temporarily close their doors. As a result, many California workers have experienced layoffs due to their employers’ financial losses.

If you’ve been laid off as a result of COVID-19, you may be wondering if you can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer or what exactly or legal options are moving forward.

Layoffs vs. Wrongful Termination

People often use “layoff” and “termination” interchangeably, however, being laid off and being wrongfully terminated are two very different legal things.

In California, wrongful termination is when an employer fires an employee due to discrimination or retaliation. For instance, an employer cannot fire a worker based on specific characteristics, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religion

Additionally, employees cannot be terminated as a means of retaliation, such as if the employee:

  • Reports illegal activity
  • Files a workers’ compensation claim
  • Protests workplace conditions or safety
  • Requests protected leave

On the other hand, according to California Labor Code §1400(c), a layoff is defined as “a separation from a position for a lack of funds or lack of work.” Essentially, this means that a person is let go because of the lack of funds available by the employer to pay this employee for the quantity of work.

Layoffs are what many workers in California have been experiencing, as their employers cannot afford to keep paying them due to losses caused by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

What To Do If You’ve Been Laid Off During COVID-19

As we discussed, layoffs are not considered wrongful termination. This means that employees in California who have been laid off amid COVID-19 cannot file a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer.

This doesn’t mean you are without options if you have experienced a layoff. While you were working, your employer may have violated wage and hour laws, meaning you are entitled to compensation from your employer.

If you believe you were denied fair wages by your employer before being laid off, it’s imperative to seek out an employment law attorney who can help you file a claim.

Helping Workers in Trying Times

Aegis Law Firm is dedicated to being a trusted legal resource for workers facing uncertainty and stress amid the pandemic. Whatever the situation of your case, it won’t hurt you to call us for free and find out whether you have legal options for pursuing compensation.

If you are staying at home with your family during these times, we are still fully operational and providing remote legal services via phone calls, emails, and video chats.

As always, Aegis Law Firm is here to stand in your corner. Call us at (949) 379-6250 or fill out our online contact form to get started on your case.