California is an “at-will” employment state leading many employees to believe they can be fired any time for any reason. That is not true. There are limitations and certain laws that employers must follow in order to avoid litigation. Both state and federal labor laws apply. On some occasions, the two bodies of law conflict. When that happens, the one that provides the most employee benefits is the one that generally prevails.
Employer Discrimination Acts That are in Violation of the Law
It is against state and federal law for employers to fire, refuse to hire or promote someone, decrease wages or take any adverse action against any employee for any of the following reasons:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Physical appearance
Employers may try to avoid liability by claiming the employee was fired for a different reason. No matter what the employer says, if it can be proven that the firing was based on one of the illegal reasons, it is likely that the court will decide in favor of the employee.
Other Potential Employer Violations of the Law
- Non-compliance with state and federal wage and hour laws: California workers must be paid a minimum wage. If they work more than 40 hours in one workweek, with only a few exceptions for some types of employees, they must be paid overtime.
- Improperly categorizing an employee as an independent contractor: The law concerning whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor is based on several factors, not on the label given by the employer. Employers may try to avoid providing benefits they are required to provide to employees, like health insurance and vacation pay, by claiming their employees are independent contractors.
- Retaliate against whistleblowers by firing them: It is illegal for an employer to fire an employee who has reported the employer to any organization or agency for the employer’s illegal acts, such as committing fraud, harassing employees or discriminating against them.
- Fired an employee in violation of a union contract: Unions contracts generally list reasons an employee can be fired. If the reason for the firing is not listed, it is in violation of the contract for the employee to be fired.
- Fired employees in violation of the employer’s own employee handbook.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you can feel comfortable entrusting your legal matter to us. We thoroughly investigate the facts surrounding the termination or illegal employer activity. We are committed to obtaining the best possible outcome for you, whether that is through negotiation or taking the matter to trial.