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When is a firing or lay-off a wrongful termination?

Losing a job can be a major source of financial hardship. The average professional does not have enough in savings to cover months of unemployment between positions. Especially if someone works in a well-paid profession, finding a job that offers comparable wages and benefits with little advance notice is quite difficult.

Technically, California is an at-will employment state. Either party can end an employment relationship for any legal reason. However inconvenient it may be for employees, businesses potentially have the right to terminate their work arrangements with little or no advance notice.

That being said, companies still have to avoid taking actions that violate the rights of employees. In some situations, a worker recently laid off or fired by an employer may have grounds to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit against the business.

Retaliatory firings

Many wrongful termination lawsuits arise because a worker believes the action was punitive. They requested leave under the California Family Rights Act or reported harassment in the workplace. Instead of respecting their rights or acting in their defense, the company instead punished them. Workers who can show that the timing of a termination makes it likely a response to protected workplace activities could theoretically file a lawsuit seeking compensation or reinstatement to their position.

Discriminatory terminations

It is unlawful for a company to consider certain protected characteristics when deciding who to hire or fire. For example, a worker’s religion, sex or race should typically have no bearing on their ability to continue working for a business. If an employer referenced a protected characteristic when justifying a termination, that might give a worker grounds to take legal action. A wrongful termination lawsuit is also possible in cases involving mass layoffs. If one type of employee, such as workers over 40, experienced disproportionate representation in the group of workers let go, the company may have violated the law and the rights of employees when making those decisions.

Fighting back against a wrongful termination can reduce the economic impact a business’s choices have on individuals. Those familiar with California’s employment laws may recognize when they have the right to take legal action over the loss of a job.

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