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What is wrongful termination?

Getting fired or let go from a job can be a difficult experience for an employee, especially one who feels that the termination is not warranted. As much as we would like to think that all firings are lawful, the truth is that some employers fire employees for illegal reasons. Employees who have been wrongfully terminated may file a claim against their former employer to get their job back or to recover damages for lost pay and benefits.

When is a termination considered wrongful?

Under the California Labor Code, there is a presumption that all employment is at-will. This means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any legal reason, just as an employee can quit their job at any time for any reason. It is important to understand that legal does not mean ‘with cause.’ In other words, an employer does not have to have a good reason to fire you. In fact, they do not have to have any reason at all. If the firing was not for unlawful reasons, it is not considered wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination typically occurs when an employee is terminated for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. Some common examples of wrongful termination include:

  • Terminating an employee based on a protected characteristic (e.g., age, gender, race, sexual orientation)
  • Terminating an employee for whistleblowing or complaining of discrimination/harassment
  • Terminating an employee in breach of contract
  • Terminating an employee in violation of public policy or company policy

If you have been wrongfully terminated, it can help to speak to an employment law attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help gather evidence to prove that you were terminated for illegal reasons and help you recover damages for the harm you suffered.