I Was Fired – Can I Sue My (Former) Employer?
Getting fired from a job is a traumatic and difficult experience for anyone. After losing your job, you may feel that the termination was unfair and you may be angry or fearful you won’t be able to make ends meet for you or your family. This often leads to the question, “can I sue my former employer after I’ve been fired?” The answer is the same as for many questions in law: “it depends.”
“At Will” Employment
California, like many states, is an “at will” employment state. This means that in most circumstances, your employer can terminate you at any time, for any legitimate reason, or even for no reason at all. It also means that you have the freedom to quit at anytime, for any reason or no reason at all. Most California employees are “at will” employees unless they have a contract with their employer that specifies a particular time they will be employed or that they can only be terminated “for cause.”
Even “At Will” Employees Can’t Be Fired for Unlawful Reasons
If you are an “at will” employee (and you probably are), although your employer can terminate you for any legitimate reason or no reason, the termination cannot be because of an unlawful reason. Both federal and California laws protect employees from being terminated for reasons the Legislature and courts have determined are wrongful or illegal.
The most important law protecting employees in California is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which makes it illegal for an employer to terminate you, or to take other actions that negatively effect your employment because of a number of reasons including, disability, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy and national origin. Termination for any of these reasons is illegal discrimination.
Other laws also prohibit employers from firing employees for reasons that are contrary to an important public policy of the State of California. This is called “wrongful termination.” The law also protects employees from retaliation by their employer for asserting their legal rights or opposing illegal activity at work. This could include filing a claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or reporting or expressing opposition to discrimination or harassment against you or another employee. Lawsuits that arise out of these types of circumstances are often called “whistleblower” claims.
If you believe you have been terminated for an unlawful reason, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer. You shouldn’t wait; there are very strict time limits that apply, and if they pass, your claim will be lost.
Contact Our Orange County Office Today for a Free Consultation
If believe you have been terminated for an unlawful reason, give the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams a call today at 949-679-9909 to speak with a employment attorney in Irvine about your situation. You can also contact us through the form below and we will respond promptly.