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Top Five Sham Reasons Employers Use to Hide Wrongful Terminations
California is an “at-will” employment state. This is embodied in California Labor Code section 2922, which states that an “employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other.” This means employees who have not signed an employment contract for a specified term are generally allowed to end their employment for any reason or no reason at all at any time without the threat of criminal or civil liability. This also means employers are generally allowed to terminate an employee without an employment contract for a specified term for any reason or no reason at all without the threat of criminal or civil liability.Even in an “At-Will” Employment State Not All Terminations Are Legal
There are clear exceptions to the rule that an employer can terminate you for any reason or no reason. Employers do not have free reign under the law to do whatever they want. Employers cannot legally terminate an employee for an unlawful reason. If the employer terminates an employee for an unlawful reason, the employer could suffer legal consequences. For example, if your employer fires you because of your race, or because you have a serious medical condition and need time off from work to undergo medical treatment, this may be a wrongful termination. Unlawful terminations happen all too often. However, wrongful termination claims are tricky and often require the expertise of a skilled employment attorney to prove. This is because employers do not want to be sued by their former employees and perhaps end up paying a large settlement or judgment. Most employers are savvy enough not to tell an employee that she is being fired due to her race, serious medical condition, or another unlawful reason. Instead, the employer will conjure a sham reason for the termination to hide the fact that the employee is being fired for an unlawful reason. We believe the best way to avoid being wrongfully terminated, and to pursue a claim if you are wrongfully terminated, is to know your rights. As part of our effort to inform California workers on their rights, below we discuss five possible sham reasons employers use to wrongfully terminate employees.1. “Going in a Different Direction”
One common sham reason used to hide a wrongful termination is a statement to the effect that “we are going in a different direction.” Your employer knows better than to say you are being terminated for a reason that is patently unlawful, such as complaining of illegal discrimination. An employer gains no advantage by being brash and inviting a lawsuit. Telling you that “we are going in a different direction” reveals no information as to why you were fired. It also has the advantage of sounding legitimate while being vague enough that it is hard to disprove. This is where the need for an experienced employment attorney comes in. He or she will sift through the details of your situation to make the case that you were wrongfully terminated.2. No Reason Is Provided by Your Employer
Yes, it is lawful for your employer to fire you without giving you a reason for the termination. Lawful, yes, but usually if an employer has a legitimate reason for terminating your employment the employer will tell you.
If you were fired due to poor attendance, your employer will probably state poor attendance as the reason for your termination. Your employer is required to keep a record of the hours you have worked pursuant to California Labor Code section 226 and other laws. Your employer may use any timekeeping method so long as it is complete and accurate. If you are legitimately fired for poor attendance, your employer will have evidence to back up that claim. Your employer gains no advantage by hiding the fact that you are being terminated for poor attendance.If you were terminated for poor performance, your employer likely has written you up before and or issued a negative performance review.
In both examples, your employer has documentation to support why you are being fired. Your employer would have no incentive to conceal the reason for your termination. Being up front about the reason for your termination may ward off future litigation. However, when your employer gives no reason for your termination, that may be a tip off that your employer is firing you for an unlawful reason. Your boss may figure he is better off saying nothing at all. You are given your last paycheck, a Notice to Employee as to Change in Relationship form, and you are ushered off the premises.3. Downsizing
The financial fortunes of many companies go up and down. In recognition of this reality, the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the California WARN Act, provides certain protections to employees who are subject to a mass layoff. That said, employers sometimes conceal having terminated a worker for an unlawful reason by falsely claiming that the termination is a cost-cutting measure or part of a group layoff. Whether you can prevail in a wrongful termination claim depends heavily on the details, The attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC are experienced in gathering the evidence necessary to successfully pursue a wrongful termination claim.4. Elimination of Your Position
One common sham reason used to hide a wrongful termination is that your employer is eliminating your position. For example, you complained to the Human Resources department that your supervisor is harassing or discriminating against you. Unfortunately, your employer considers your supervisor to be a more valuable asset than you are. The company is faced with a dilemma, fire or otherwise discipline a highly valued employee or brush off the complaints of harassment or discrimination and defuse the situation by eliminating the lesser valued employee whose complaints are at the heart of the problem. One tactic is to rename your job position without changing the associated job duties. Your employer then fires you using the sham reason that your position has been eliminated and places another person (either a new hire or someone in the company who has not complained of harassment) to take on your job duties.5. Performance Issues
One of the most common methods by which employers try to disguise wrongful terminations is to cite “performance issues” as the reason for a termination. Often this happens shortly after the employee has complained to the employer about a workplace safety issue, harassment, or discrimination. The performance issue is often a criticism the employer never raised until the employee made the complaint. Proximity in time between the employee making the complaint and the citing of performance issue is the hallmark of a retaliatory action leading to a wrongful termination.
Delving into the specific facts of your situation is essential in determining whether you have been wrongfully terminated. If you are having problems with your employer (including your supervisor and coworkers), it is essential that you document what is occurring. If you are later wrongfully terminated, you can furnish a record of evidence to an experienced employment attorney of your choice. Your attorney can then use that evidence to pursue a case that you were wrongfully terminated.Contact Us
If you were wrongfully terminated from your job or your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced and caring employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form. We advance all costs. No recovery, no fee.