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How To Prove Wrongful Termination

There are a numerous state and federal laws, including anti-discrimination laws, designed to protect employees’ rights to acquire and maintain employment, free of employment discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical handicap, medical condition, age, marital status, or military or veteran status. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer may not terminate an employee for any of these characteristics. Additionally, an employer may not create a work environment that automatically puts a member of a protected class at a disadvantage, or otherwise excludes him or her from any activity or benefit.

The majority of employees in California are considered “at-will” employees, meaning that an employee may leave his or her position at any time, with or without reason. Conversely, an employer may fire an at-will employee at any time with lawful reason, or without reason at all.

Under FEHA, an employer cannot fire an employee on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical handicap, or any other protected classification. Additional examples of wrongful discharge and unlawful reasons for termination include:

  1. Termination based on an employee’s immigration status.
  2. Termination based on an employee’s political views or activities.
  3. Any form of retaliation against an employee for reporting a violation of the law (“whistleblowing”).
  4. For requesting unreasonable accommodations that disable an employee to perform essential job functions.
  5. For taking time off that they are legally entitled to (Family and Medical Leave, sick leave, etc.).

In order to establish a case for wrongful termination, or constructive termination, under FEHA, an employee must show that (1) he or she is engaged in a protected activity, like those discussed above; (2) the employer subjected the employee to an adverse employment action; and (3) there is a direct connection between the employees protected activity and the employer’s action.

Employee’s that are not considered “at-will,” often have contracts that limit their employer’s ability to terminate employment. In such cases, employees may have a claim that they were wrongfully terminated in violation of their employment contract.

Losing a job can be stressful. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, here are some tips to help minimize the stress and analyze your wrongful termination claim:

1. Document Everything

Being fired is often a highly emotional and stressful experience. However, if you are able to record the details of your termination, including what was said, when and how it occurred, and the relevant history leading up to the termination, a wrongful termination attorney will be better suited to evaluate your claim.

2. Request and Review Your Employment Contract

If possible, obtain and review a copy of your employment contract. Your employment contract may include procedural safeguards that your employer must adhere to before you can be terminated. Additionally, if your employer terminates you for reasons that are not permitted under your contract, you may have a wrongful termination claim for breach of contract.

3. Refrain from Retaliation

Acts of retaliation against an employer such as property damage, derogatory posts on social media, etc., may affect the strength of your case and the amount you receive in damages.

If you believe you that you or someone you know has been wrongfully terminated or has experienced wrongful discharge, contact the experienced attorneys at Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara, LLP for assistance.