Getting fired from a job can be traumatic and stressful. This can be especially true if you have doubts about whether or not your employer broke the law to fire you.
Many people are familiar with wrongful termination as a concept, but not everyone can accurately define it right off the bat. Wrongful termination goes beyond feeling like you were fired for unfair reasons – those reasons must have been illegal.
Illegal reasons to fire someone are those that are rooted in discrimination or retaliation against an employee engaging in a legally protected activity, such as whistleblowing, talking about wages with their coworkers, and even discussing whether or not to organize a union.
To be clear, discrimination in California refers to any mistreatment of an employee based upon protected characteristics such as the following:
- Age (if 40 or older)
- Skin color
- Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions)
- National origin
- Disability status
- Citizenship status
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or expression
- AIDS/HIV status
- Political activities or affiliation
- Military or veteran status
Let’s now take a look at five examples of how a firing could be wrongful termination.
1. An Employee Is Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, so this is actually an example of wrongful termination for two reasons: It punishes an employee for engaging in a legally protected activity that involves reporting discrimination.
2. An Employee Is Fired after Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for people who request reasonable accommodations to perform essential functions at work. If an employee needs special furniture, workspace layout, software, or something else to accommodate a disability, employers are obligated to follow through unless they can prove it would cause their company an undue hardship. Under no circumstances, however, can an employer base a decision to fire someone on their request or need for reasonable accommodation – to do so would be to engage in disability discrimination.
3. A Worker Is Fired for Reporting Unlawful Business Practices to the Government
Again, reporting unlawful behavior or business practices is a protected activity. Whether an employee makes the report within the company or to an outside government agency doesn’t matter. If an investigation results from the report, employers are additionally barred against terminating or otherwise disciplining employees from participating in it.
4. An Employee is Fired for Refusing to Work in an Unsafe Situation
This issue came into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic when essential employees were expected to perform their duties with little to no personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe from the virus. If a worker is fired for refusing to work under conditions that a reasonable person would deem unsafe, the employer may be liable for wrongful termination.
5. An Employee Is Selected for During a Lay-Off and Replaced by a Younger Worker
Age discrimination is illegal when it happens to employees who are 40 years old or older. Companies are forbidden from taking someone’s age into account when making employment decisions, even those that assume a younger worker will have newer skills or be cheaper to afford. Employees who are selected for a layoff or terminated for no real reason other than their age may have grounds for a lawful termination claim.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you are an employee who has recently been fired and believe you may be a victim of wrongful termination, turn to Limonjyan Law Group for help. We can evaluate your claim and help you pursue legal action to recover what you deserve.Get in touch with our firm today by calling (213) 377-6707 or by contacting us online.