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What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination?
What qualifies as wrongful termination is employer initiated separation of employment motivated by unlawful reasons. In California, workers are generally “at will” and, absent an employment contract, may be fired with or without cause unless the reason for the termination is unlawful. If the reason for the termination or separation of employment is lawful, it is not wrongful termination. If the reason for the termination or separation of employment is unlawful, it is wrongful termination. In the event of a wrongful termination, you will have recourse to legal remedies. Legal remedies for wrongful termination may include recovery of lost income and employment benefits, compensatory damages for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages. The factors that must be taken into account to prove wrongful termination are intricate and complex, so if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, you should Contact an experienced attorney who knows how to navigate these issues.What Reasons Might My Employer Fire Me That Are Unlawful?
While an employer will usually state or claim a lawful reason for a termination, sometimes this is a sham reason to cover up the fact that the employer terminated the employee for an unlawful reason. California’s preeminent anti-discrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996, prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on protected personal characteristics, this includes termination based on an employee’s:
- race (and traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists) California Government Code section 12926(w)(x)
- religious creed (including all aspects of religious belief, observance, and practice, e.g. religious dress and grooming practices) California Government Code section 12926(q)
- actual or perceived national Origin and ancestry
- physical disability
- mental disability
- medical condition and genetic information
- marital status
- sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and gender expression
- age (limited to individuals who are at least 40 years old) California Government Code section 12926(b)
veteran or military status (members or veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Armed Forces Reserve, the U.S. National Guard, and the California National Guard) California Government Code section 12926(k)
If you feel the reason given by your employer for your termination is a sham and the real reason for your termination is based on one of the protected characteristics listed above, please contact the attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC, who have the knowledge and experience needed to prove a case that qualifies as wrongful termination.
By way of example, say you are 63 years old and you’ve just been transferred to a new department in the company. Say you’ve been wearing starched dress shirts, suspenders, and support sneakers to work for the past 5 years. While your standard getup does not violate company policy, the boss in the new department continually complains that you’re not dressed as professionally as she would like. What if the real reason your boss doesn’t like the way you dress is because your boss associates the clothes and shoes you wear with older people and she thinks of her department as being progressive, a vanguard, and she would like only to have younger people working under her and that’s why she’s firing you? FEHA prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on protected personal characteristics, including termination based on an employee’s age, when the employee is 40 years of age or older. Well, under these circumstances, it is quite likely that your boss did in fact unlawfully fire you from your job, regardless of whatever reason she chooses to put on your termination paperwork. The challenge for your attorney then would be to make a persuasive case that you were in fact fired for discriminatory reasons.
By way of another illustration, you’re a 20-year employee at the company, and you have never received a complaint about your work performance in all that time. Say then your department merges with another department and you hear that your new boss is firing you because he doesn’t like how slowly you walk around the office. He also doesn’t like the way you drag the soles of your shoes on the floor; he thinks its unbecoming of an office professional and sets the wrong tone for the energetic department he oversees. What if you walk more slowly than some of your coworkers and have trouble lifting your feet off the floor because you have a neurological disorder and real reason your boss is firing you is because he doesn’t think disabled persons make good employees. FEHA prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on protected personal characteristics, including termination based on an employee’s physical disability. Well, under these circumstances, it is quite likely that your boss did in fact unlawfully fire you from your job. Of course again the challenge for your attorney would be to prove that you were in fact fired for discriminatory reasons.
As another example, say you are at least forty years of age and your boss fires you for violating the company attendance policy by showing up to work more than ten minutes late two days in a row. However, many of the younger workers in your office (who hold job positions similar to your job position) have violated the same company attendance policy more than twice and they all still work there and have never been disciplined for attendance issues. Unequal enforcement of workplace policies towards similarly situated employees can lead to an inference of discrimination when the employer is less lenient to an employee with a protected status under the law. A finding of discrimination is particularly likely when the employer then struggles to articulate a justifiable, nondiscriminatory reason for treating the employee with the protected status (age, in this case) differently. Well, under these circumstances, it is quite likely that your boss did in fact unlawfully fire you from your job.
As you can see, when it comes to determining whether a discharge qualifies as wrongful termination and then proving the wrongful termination claim, it’s all about the details. An experienced employment law attorney has the skills to analyze the circumstances surrounding the termination of employment and take the steps necessary to successfully pursue the claim.Contact Us
If you have been wrongfully terminated, or if you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment law attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.