What To Do When You Get Fired Unfairly In California

Updated: Jan 27

Wrongful Termination: Knowing Your Employee Rights Against Illegal Firing


Under California Employment Law, Wrongful Termination occurs when an employee's position is terminated in violation of a contract or public policy. This makes wrongful termination an illegal act, and an employee who has been on the receiving end of such has the right to file a claim under California Employment Law.


los angeles wrongful termination attorneys

Who Is Eligible To File A Wrongful Termination Claim?

When it comes to wrongful termination, your eligibility to file the claim will depend on whether or not you have signed a contract or working as an "at-will" worker.

  • Employees With Contracts. An employment contract is defined as a written agreement between an employer and an employee that spells out the terms of the worker's employment and the reasons for terminating it.

  • "At-Will Employees". However, in California, the job status defaults to at-will employment if there is no employment contract in place. At-will employment indicates that any party can end the working relationship at any moment for any reason if the employee is not in a protected class. Thus, the termination of someone in that covered class who is also an at-will employee is the source of many unjust termination complaints.

However, both types of employees are entitled to protection from firing them for illegal reasons. So while at-will employees may not be able to sue for breach of contract (because there are no contracts in the first place), they are still eligible to file a Wrongful Termination claim for firing them on unlawful grounds.

Under California law, at-will employees have several essential rights, including:

  1. If the worker's capacity to work is impaired owing to pregnancy; or the employment poses an unnecessary risk to the worker or her unborn child, equitable accommodations should be granted (if the employer has more than five employees).

  2. Guaranteed leave for specific scenarios if the firm has at least 50 employees, such as:

  3. An employee is afflicted with a severe sickness (or health condition)

  4. A loved one or family member of an employee (such as a spouse, kid, or parent) is or is suffering from a serious disease, and the employee is responsible for caring for them.

  5. The birth or adoption of a child.

Wrongful Termination On Independent Contractors

On the other hand, independent contractors in California are not entitled to any of the rights mentioned above and are typically precluded from initiating unjust termination actions. On the other hand, the state has recently expanded on the definition of employee to ensure that employers have the same rights and benefits as employees.

To prove that an employee is an independent contractor, the employer must show the following:

  • It has no say in how a person performs their duties.

  • The employee is providing a service that is not usually provided by the company.

  • The employee maintains a separate corporation, trade, or activity from that of the employer.


What Are The Grounds To Sue For Wrongful Termination In California?


Wrongful termination cases can take many different shapes. Here are a handful of the more well-known examples:

1. Contractual Breach

This is the type of Wrongful Termination claim that contract employees might bring.


For example, assume that an employment contract contains specific clauses for termination and that the employee is fired for a reason other than those listed or before the contract's full term has expired. In this instance, the employee may launch a claim for wrongful termination.


2. Retaliation

It is illegal to fire an employee as an act of revenge or punishment. For example, if an employee sought out to report their employer for OSHA complaints, their employers are not allowed to retaliate against them for it.

As such, it is also illegal to terminate an employee in California for: