Who Can File A Wrongful Termination Claim In California?

Updated: Jun 7

Wrongful Termination Claims For Different Types Of California Employees


Wrongful Termination Claims in California protect workers from getting fired for illegal reasons. However, "At-Will" workers, who work at their employer's discretion, might be confused as to whether they can qualify for Wrongful Termination Claims.


The short answer is yes. Even "At-Will" employees are protected from getting fired for illegal reasons. So let's discuss your employment rights in California, particularly in cases of termination:


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Who Can File A Claim For Wrongful Termination?


When it comes to wrongful termination, whether you signed a contract or worked as an "at-will" employee will determine whether you are eligible to submit a claim.


Here's the difference:

  1. Employees on Contracts. An employment contract is defined as a written agreement between an employer and an employee that outlines the terms of the employee's employment as well as the grounds for terminating it. If you are fired before the number of months or years your contract says you'll work with the employer, then it might be considered a breach.

  2. At-Will Workers. If there is no employment contract in effect, the job status defaults to at-will employment. If the employee is not in a protected class, at-will work means that any party can end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. As a result, many unfair termination lawsuits stem from the termination of someone in that covered class who is also an at-will employee.

However, both types of employees have the right to be protected against being fired on illegal grounds. While at-will employees may not be able to sue for breach of contract (since there are no contracts in the first place), they can still file a Wrongful Termination claim if they were fired for reasons that were not justified.


So while you may be working at your employer's discretion, you might still have valid grounds for wrongful termination. Employers can fire at-will employees for no reason. Still, they cannot fire employees as an act of discrimination, retaliation, or a violation of public policy.

What Is At-Will Employment and How Does It Work?

Workers or employees who are not covered by a union or other employment contracts in the United States are generally working at will. In essence, it means that a worker can quit at any moment and for any cause. Likewise, employers can fire them for any reason (again, save discrimination and retaliation).

So, even if you work at the whim of your boss, you have some protection against improper employment decisions. At-will employees, for example, can be legally fired if their manager doesn't like their attitude. On the other hand, the same manager cannot fire an at-will employee for discriminating against their protected qualities.

According to California Labor Code 2922, every employee in California is considered "at-will" unless the parties involved agree otherwise or there is an applicable exception. It's worth mentioning that many contract employees are still considered "at-will" since their contracts state so (the employers make sure of it).

Yes, at-will employees are still protected from being fired on illegal grounds. Contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles if you need assistance or more information on the subject. They can help you map out your present employment situation and find legal remedies to a probable California Employment Law for Wrongful Termination case.

Exceptions to the Rule of At-Will Employment

There are exceptions to the at-will employment provision known as "implied contracts." These agreements can be verbal, or the courts may examine both parties' activities to see if there was an understanding that the employee would not be fired without cause.


Consider the case below:

  • Various reasons for termination are listed in an employee handbook, such as poor job performance or misconduct. In addition, the company has a policy of retaining employees on board as long as their job performance is sufficient.

  • If an employee with good ratings and no reports of wrongdoing is fired to make way for the owner's nephew, the employee may be eligible to file a wrongful termination claim. This is because, based on the standards and current practices, the person would have reasonably anticipated keeping their job.

  • If a recently fired employee can demonstrate that they were employed under an express or implied contract, they may be able to claim wrongful termination on the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing exemption. According to this guideline, an employer must:

  • When they terminate your employment agreement in contravention of their own personnel policies, they are acting in bad faith.

  • To prevent the worker from receiving a benefit to which they were otherwise entitled (such as a pension).

  • By obfuscating the reason for the termination

According to federal law, employers cannot dismiss employees in retaliation for reporting discrimination, harassment, or unsafe working conditions. On the other hand, retaliation claims might be difficult to prove because the worker carries the burden of proof in demonstrating the action was retaliatory.


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Furthermore, employees are often afraid of losing their jobs if they report harassment or unsafe working circumstances. As a result, just cause laws could help enforce anti-retaliation policies in the workplace.

Get a referral to one of our prescreened Los Angeles Employment Attorneys to assist you in better grasping the unique circumstances of your case.

At-will employees in California enjoy several important rights, including:

  • Fair accommodations should be made if the worker's capacity to work is compromised due to pregnancy or if the job provides an unwarranted risk to the worker or her unborn child (if the employer has more than five employees or workers).

  • If the company has at least 50 employees, guaranteed leave for particular scenarios, such as:

  • When an employee or worker is currently suffering from a severe illness (or health condition)

  • When an employee's loved one or family member (such as a spouse, child, or parent) is or has been diagnosed with a serious illness, the employee is responsible for their care.

  • The employee recently had or adopted a child.

Even at-will employees have to right to contact an Employment Attorney in Los Angeles to file claims. If you are confused or need some help regarding the viability of your grounds, consult with your lawyer so they can answer your questions.


Termination of Independent Contractors Without Cause

On the other hand, independent contractors in California are not entitled to any of the rights mentioned above. They are often barred from taking wrongful termination actions. On the other hand, the state has recently broadened the definition of employees to ensure that employers have the same rights and benefits as employees.


The employer must show the following to prove that an employee is an independent contractor:

  • It has no say in how a person carries out their responsibilities.

  • The employee is offering a service that the company does not typically supply.

  • The employee runs a different business, trade, or activity from the one run by the employer.

Is it possible for me to be fired for no apparent reason?

If there is no contract between the employer and the employee, the employer does not need "cause" to fire the employee, and the employee does not need "cause" to leave her job. If the relationship becomes unworkable, both parties have the option to end it at any time.

The parties can, however, execute a written contract guaranteeing the employee a specific length of employment. Employment contracts with specific restrictions are used to attract and retain highly competent individuals.


When the length of an employee's job term is defined, the "at-will" presumption dissolves. The employer must then have a compelling reason to fire the employee, such as if someone did something illegal on company property.


In most circumstances, the employment contract also requires the employer to provide 30 to 60 days' notice before terminating the employee. This gives the individual the opportunity to look for new work.


If your rights have been violated due to an illegal firing, contact a Los Angeles Employment A immediately now.

Is This a Case of Wrongful Termination, or Were You Just Fired Unfairly?

A legal right exists for an employer or supervisor to fire an at-will employee for any reason, even arbitrary or irrational reasons. In layman's terms, an employee can be fired for personal reasons or because they are being replaced by a new applicant who appears to be less competent. Naturally, the dismissal may seem unjust and unethical. It is doubtful, however, to be considered "illegal."


To be declared illegal, the termination must be motivated by an unlawful cause or a violation of public policy. An employer might fire a worker because she is Hispanic or disabled, for example. Firing someone because of their race, ethnicity, color, national origin, or handicap is considered an "unlawful policy."


Employees who file a complaint about the company's illegal actions or refuse to participate in the prohibited activity are also protected by the law.

It is illegal to terminate an employee in violation of public policy. Compensation, including back pay and punitive penalties, is due to the employee. That said, "unfair" termination is likely to be dismissed in court, and the employer may be able to collect its costs from the employee. It can be challenging to distinguish between "unlawful" and "unfair" terminations.

When your work ends due to resignation or termination, it's vital to understand your rights. First, consult a Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to determine if you have grounds to make a claim with the appropriate agencies.

California's Wrongful Termination Laws

If you've been laid off, fired, or dismissed from your work, the first thing you should think about is whether or not your dismissal was legal. Of course, an employer can fire an at-will employee at any moment if the reason is legal. However, there are a few important exceptions to at-will employment.


If you have a formal job contract with your California employer that specifies the terms of your employment and the duration of the contract, you are not considered an at-will employee. You might, for example, have a job contract that states that you will be employed for a certain amount of time. You may also have a letter of employment, an email, or another written document saying that you will be hired in the future. If you have such employment contracts or agreements in place, you may be able to enforce them in court.

An implicit contract, which effectively agrees with what your employer stated and did, is another exception to the at-will rule. However, this type of contract may be difficult to enforce because wrongful termination is difficult to show.

The courts in California consider a number of factors when determining whether an implied contract existed: