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When Can You Sue an Employer for Wrongful Termination?

Posted on November 19, 2020 in

Wrongful termination laws exist at both the state and federal level, in order to protect employees from being unjustly fired. California is what is known as an at-will employment state. The concept being that employers may terminate employment and employees may quit their positions for virtually any reason at any time. Nonetheless, employees do have options for legal recourse in the event of a wrongful termination.

What is Considered Wrongful Termination in California? 

Employers are not required to give advance warning or a reason for ending your employment. They also do not have to provide you with an opportunity to defend yourself to correct any issues related to your work performance prior to you being let go. However, you may have the right to sue for wrongful termination if your employer committed any of the following violations: 


  • Breach of Contract: Although employment is normally “at-will,” an existing oral or written contract may specify the terms under which employment can be terminated. However, spoken promises are much more difficult to prove. The state also recognizes clauses within contracts that relate to job security. A case can then be made that the employee is not hired at-will. For instance, if a company follows a “three-strike” rule prior to termination and a worker is fired after only one strike. 



  • Discrimination: Employees cannot be fired based on race, sex, country of origin, age and religion. These and others are considered “protected classes,” established in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1984). 



  • Retaliation: It is illegal for employers to punish employees who exercise their state or federal rights, for example, filing a complaint (unsafe business practices, sexual harassment) or alerting authorities about unlawful business practices (whistleblowing). Retaliation may not necessarily be job termination, but can include docked hours, pay cuts or denial of a raise, demotion, sudden transfer, etc. 



  • Policy Violations: It’s against the law for an employer to terminate employment because a worker engaged in acts protected by public policies, such as jury duty, voting, or serving in the military.  


How to Sue an Employer for Wrongful Termination in California

The first step in pursuing a wrongful termination case is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An investigation will be conducted and if any evidence of fault is discovered, the EEOC will attempt to remedy the situation. If you are unhappy with their solution or sufficient enough evidence is not found, you have the right to bring your case to court. A Right To Sue letter will be issued by the EEOC, then you have 90 days to file your wrongful termination lawsuit. 

In the meantime, or when you have the Right to Sue letter, speak to and hire an employment attorney. Evidence is crucial in these cases, and an attorney can help you gather the support you need to prove your claim. Some examples include copies of your employment contract or handbook, copies of performance reviews, witness statements, termination notice, emails, etc. 

Proving a wrongful termination case can be complex, especially if your previous employer is putting forth an alternative and lawful reason for your firing. An experienced lawyer will help you maximize the strength of your claim and ensure your case is heard. 

Speak to a Highly Qualified Employment Lawyer Today 

Contact Rise Law Firm if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated. We can review the facts of your case and determine the best course for legal action. Reach us online or call (310) 861-3303 to schedule a free consultation.