While California is an “at will” state and provides employers great latitude with respect to termination, employees, generally speaking, cannot be lawfully terminated for simply following the law, asserting their rights under the law, or informing the authorities of an unlawful act. For example, an employee who is fired for lawfully taking medical or pregnancy leave, stepping forward as a whistleblower, or in retaliation for reporting unlawful activity in the workplace, can seek monetary damages for wrongful termination.
Though most would presume that employers should need not be reminded of the following, it is similarly unlawful for an employer to engage or condone in sexually harassing or discriminatory conduct in the workplace. Terminating, demoting or otherwise altering the wages, hours, or working conditions of employment based on some legally protected characteristic, such as the employee’s physical or mental disability, pregnancy, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or age, is strictly prohibited and actionable under the law.
Wrongful termination and retaliation matters are seldom straight forward cases of blatant discrimination, but are typically more subtle, involving various public policy concerns and/or legal rights of which the employee is often unaware. These matters are further complicated by the fact that employers often lie to the employee about the reason for the termination or fail to provide any reason at all.
If you have questions about a termination, or any other adverse employment action, please contact our office for a free consultation.
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