California is considered an “at will” state. That means that just as you can quit your job at any time, your employer can end your employment any time they want.
Your employer does not have to have a reason to fire you. He does not even have to be “fair.” They can fire you for a reason that isn’t true. All of these actions are legal.
Just as you cannot be forced to work for your employer, your employer cannot be forced to keep you.
Exceptions to the Rule
Yet even as an at-will employee, there are certain reasons you may be fired which are considered wrongful termination and which may make be eligible for compensation from your employer.
Some of the most common illegal firings or lay offs include:
You Have Rights Under the Law
If you are fired or laid-off illegally, you may be eligible to receive lost wages and benefits. You may even be able to get your job back.
While “wrongful termination” is the most commonly used term, an unfair employment discharge may also be called:
Don’t Let a Bad Boss Intimidate You
If you were fired for one of the reasons above, it is doubtful that the company is going to come out and tell you so. They will attempt to make your firing or lay off sound as legitimate as possible.
Your supervisor might even convince other employees or supervisors to make complaints about you. Maybe, after a long history of positive evaluations, you suddenly get a written notice of warning.
If you think you are being set-up for a wrongful termination, begin keeping a written record of the events surrounding your firing.
You will want to keep track – in writing – of dates, locations, and names of those involved in performance reviews, off-hand comments, commendations and reprimands about your work. It’s best to keep these notes in a safe place. And not at work!
These records will be helpful if you apply for unemployment insurance. If the employer wants to challenge your claim, you may need to show that the employer fired you illegally.
You’ll also want to make a written complaint to your supervisor or to the company’s human resources department.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is a good idea to sit down and write out everything you can remember.
The Consequences of Quitting
The wrongful termination attorneys at Ganong Law recommend that you do not quit work without seeking legal advice first.
An employee who quits work because of harassment faces a much tougher task of proving their case. Always report the harassment to your supervisor or their bosses and document the harassment in writing. Keep a copy in a safe place; not at work.
If your termination involves discrimination, you will need to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Timing is Everything
If you think you have been wrongfully terminated, contact a wrongful termination attorney as soon as possible.
The wrongful termination attorneys at the Ganong Law Firm will immediately begin building your case, collecting documents before they are destroyed or lost, and interviewing witnesses before memories fade or witnesses disappear.
Another reason to contact a wrongful attorney as soon as possible is because there are deadlines by which time you must file your lawsuit. If you miss one of these deadlines, you lose forever your right to bring this wrongful termination case.
The Cost of a Wrongful Termination Attorney
A Ganong Law wrongful termination attorney works for you on a contingency basis. This means you pay nothing until your case is resolved in your favor.
Contact a Wrongful Termination Attorney
Contact a Ganong Law wrongful termination attorney for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL, no-obligation consultation. We will be able to tell you your legal options so that you can take the action that is best for you.
Q: I never received a written or oral warning before I was fired. Do I have a wrongful termination lawsuit?
A: If you do not have an employment contract – which may be either a spoken promise or a written promise – then you are an “at-will” employee. Your employer does not have to give you any warnings before firing you. But even an at-will employee can be wrongfully terminated if the firing is due to, for example, discrimination or retaliation.
Q: My manager made my life so miserable that I couldn’t take it anymore and finally quit. Can I bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against her?
A: When a supervisor makes the conditions of your employment intolerable, forcing you to quit, it is called constructive termination. You may have a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company. However, it is better to seek legal advice before you quit. It also is critical to your legal position that before you quit you report your supervisor’s conduct.
Q: When I was fired I had three weeks of accrued vacation time and five sick days remaining. My employer refused to compensate me for them. Can he do that?
A: The courts have ruled that vacation time is a form of wages. California prohibits “use it or lose it” policies in which employees lose their earned vacation that is not taken at a specific time. All earned vacation time is due and payable at the time you were terminated.
Sick days are different. These are not considered a form of wages and the company does not have to pay you for the days you earned and have left.
Q: My employer says that I am not eligible for overtime because I am on salary. Is this true?
A: Not necessarily. Generally you are exempt from overtime if you are a manager, a licensed professional, or in charge of your own hours and work. But whether you are owed overtime or not has nothing to do with being paid a salary. Even an manager who does the same work as an hourly employee may be entitled to overtime. It is best to speak to a wrongful termination attorney to determine your situation.
Contact a Ganong Law wrongful termination attorney for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.