This is the question that many California workers may ask themselves when they lose their jobs. Even though this is an “at will” state when it comes to employment, that does not mean that an employer can always hide behind it. In some cases, the termination is not legal and may constitute wrongful termination.
What does that even mean? An employer, here in California or elsewhere, cannot terminate you for an illegal reason. Both federal and California law protect you from discrimination based on your gender, age, race or other factors. In addition, your employer cannot fire you in retaliation for your exercising your rights as an employee.
Some employers use termination as a way to punish an employee for filing for workers’ compensation benefits, for applying for leave, or for complaining about a wage and hour violation. Your employer may be counting on you not knowing that the law prohibits certain actions. Instead, he or she probably thinks that you will walk away without asserting your rights under the law.
If you suspect that your employer terminated you unlawfully, then the first step would be to verify your suspicions. The most beneficial way to do this may be to discuss the situation with an employment law attorney. A review of the circumstances, all of the relevant documentation and any other helpful information could reveal that you are the victim of wrongful termination. If that is the case, it may be possible to file a complaint in an attempt to receive restitution for lost income and other monetary and non-monetary damages.