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Understanding wrongful termination and next steps

For the most part, California employers are free to fire their employees for any number of reasons: because the employee is doing a bad job, because the company needs to cut costs or even because the employer just doesn’t like the employee’s attitude. However, there are some reasons for termination that violate state or federal laws.

When this happens, the worker may have cause for a claim of wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination

Wrongful termination is sometimes known as wrongful dismissal or wrongful firing. The termination is considered wrongful if it violates federal or state law or if it violates the terms of their employment contract. An employment contract violation may involve an employee who is terminated before their contract is expired without cause, for example.

It may include a firing based on an employee’s race, gender, age, religion, disability or because they reported discrimination or illegal activity in the workplace. Wrongful termination may also occur if the employer fires the employee for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or for refusing to perform an illegal act.

Employee actions

If an employee believes they were wrongfully terminated, they can file an action against their employer for compensation, including lost wages and benefits. They should review their employment contract and employee handbook, if applicable, to understand their terms and any violations.

It may also be helpful to collect any evidence that supports their claim, like performance reviews, witness statements, emails and other documentation. Employees may also want to consider attending mediation or arbitration to reach a settlement with their employer without going to court.

In addition to damages for lost wages, the employee may be able to seek reinstatement to their position.