Suing for Wrongful Termination in California

Updated: May 26

What to do if your employer illegally fires you & Learn if you can sue your employer for wrongful termination

In simple terms, California wrongful termination is when an employee's job is terminated in breach of a contract or public law. An employer and an employee may sometimes enter into an employment contract that sets out the terms of the worker's employment as well as the reasons for terminating the employment.

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However, in California, if there is no employment contract in effect, the employment status defaults to at-will employment. If the employee is not in a protected class, at-will employment means that any party can terminate the working relationship at any time for any reason. Many unfair termination cases stem from the termination of someone in that covered class who is also an at-will employee.

At-will employees in California are afforded many basic rights under California law, including:

  • As long as the employer has more than five workers, fair accommodations are guaranteed if the worker's capacity to work is limited due to pregnancy or the job poses an unnecessary risk to the worker or her unborn child.

As long as the employer has at least 50 workers, guaranteed leave for particular circumstances such as:

  • An employee is suffering from a severe illness (or health condition)

  • An employee's loved one or family member (such as their spouse, child, or parent) is/are suffering from a serious illness, and the employee needs to take care of them.

  • The birth or adoption of a child(ren)

Discrimination is prohibited, including termination for reasons of sex, race, or membership in a protected class of workers. Employees are covered on the grounds of religion; gender-related circumstances, such as pregnancy or breastfeeding; gender identity or expression; sexual orientation; medical status; a medical condition, including genetic abnormalities, disease, or a history of cancer; military or veteran status; country of origin; race; ancestry; mental or physical illness and disability (including those requesting family leave or leave to deal with a mental or physical disability); employees requesting family leave or leave to deal with a mental or physical disability, etc.

For example, it is unlawful for a California employer to fire an employee due to:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Race

  • Disability

  • Pregnancy

Other forms of discrimination:

  • National origin

  • Sexual orientation

  • Marital status

  • Requesting a