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Wrongful Termination

Proudly Serving California Workers Wrongfully Terminated

A discrimination wrongful termination claim occurs when an employer terminates or refuses to hire an employee because of the employee’s actual or perceived protected characteristic. Below is a list of classes that are protected from discrimination under California law.

What Is A “Discrimination Wrongful Termination Claim?”

A discrimination wrongful termination claim occurs when an employer terminates or refuses to hire an employee because of the employee’s actual or perceived protected characteristic. Below is a list of classes that are protected from discrimination under California law.

  • Race
  • Religious Creed
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Ancestry
  • Physical or Mental Disability
  • Medical Condition
  • Genetic Information
  • Marital Status
  • Sex/Gender
  • Gender Identity/Gender Expression
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Military or Veteran Status
  • Age (40 or over)
  • Pregnancy/Childbirth/Breastfeeding

It is also unlawful for an employer to terminate or refuse to hire an employee who is “associated with” someone – i.e. a spouse or family member – with any one of the above protected characteristics.

Dismissal from a job may constitute wrongful termination if:

The termination stemmed from discrimination

If you were fired based on your disability, age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, medical condition or other protected category, this would violate your legal rights.

The termination violated an agreement between you and your employer

If you had a contract with your employer (written or oral) regarding the terms of your employment and your dismissal violates that agreement, you were likely wrongfully terminated.

The termination was a retaliatory act

If you were fired after reporting or complaining about a wrongdoing or illegal conduct, or after standing up for your protected rights, this would also constitute wrongful termination.

The termination otherwise violated your legal rights as a worker

If you were fired because you took time off work that you were legally entitled to take, such as for medical leave, family leave on military service or work injury, you would likely have a wrongful termination claim.

Wrongful Termination for Discriminatory Reasons

To win on a claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination, an employee must show that a discriminatory motive influenced the wrongful termination decision.  However, termination may still be illegal if it was motivated not only by discrimination, but by a combination of discriminatory and legitimate reasons.

Employers and supervisors rarely admit they had any discriminatory motives.  There can be many forms of evidence that show there is discrimination and has had some influence on the termination decision process, including:

Wrongful Termination for Retaliatory Reasons

State and federal laws offer protections to encourage employees to report wrongdoing and to stand up for their rights without fear of losing their jobs.  It is unlawful for companies to fire employees for engaging in any of the following protected conduct:

  • Reporting about or reporting sexual harassment or other unlawful harassing conduct.
  • Reporting labor code violations, such as unpaid wages, misclassification as independent contractors, etc.
  • Complaining about or reporting unsafe working conditions.
  • Requesting benefits to which an employee is entitled, such as overtime pay or medical leave.
  • Reporting company violation of any laws to either an outside law enforcement agency or government authority, or to someone in the company with authority to correct the violation.
  • Refusing an employer’s request to engage in illegal activity or do something that would violate a law.
  • Timing of the wrongful termination decision, such as an employee being fired shortly after reporting an injury or while pregnant.
  • Evidence of discrimination against other co-workers in the same protected category.
  • Evidence that other employees outside the protected class received preferential treatment.
  • Statistical evidence, for example, data showing the company’s older employees being terminated in greater numbers than younger employees.
  • Weaknesses, inconsistencies, or contradictions in the employer’s supposed non-discriminatory reasons for the wrongful termination. For example, if the employer previously praised an employee’s communication skills and then terminated that employee on the grounds of poor communication, this may constitute evidence that poor communication was a mere pretext.
  • Evidence that the employer violated its own company policy and procedures during the process of terminating an employee. The employer’s policy requiring a written warning and/or investigation before termination and the employer ignoring this requirement.

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