No, an employee cannot be fired for failing to go along with something illegal the employer is doing. A case arose in California earlier this month in which an optometrist claims she was fired because she opposed an illegal program that management was operating. According to the optometrist, the company was tying optometrists’ bonuses to sales of specific manufacturers’ glasses and lenses. According to the lawsuit, many employees objected to the practice and refused to participate in the sales promotions, which meant they missed out on the increased bonuses.
The plaintiff alleges that in 2011 the employer began to pressure the optometrists to participate in the sales promotions that would give optometrists bonuses if they would sell or prescribe certain optical products. The plaintiff refused to participate, claiming the scheme was illegal under California law as well as the Code of Professional Ethics for Optometrists. The plaintiff began receiving written reprimands about her work that were based on false accusations.
Other optometrists who opposed the illegal practices also began receiving negative performance reviews. Ultimately, the plaintiff was fired after working for the company for 21 years. The optometrist alleges the company claimed it fired her because she failed to open her office door quickly enough when her boss knocked. She is seeking a variety of damages, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
By law, there are certain actions for which employers cannot fire employees. If you have been fired or punished at work because you reported an illegal action taken by your employer, you could be considered a whistleblower. You may have a claim for wrongful termination or other damages based on actions your employer took. If your employer cheated the federal government and you reported the illegal actions, you may have a right to file a qui tam claim, which could entitle you to damages. If you were wrongfully fired because of reporting the cheating of the federal government, you could also file a wrongful termination claim.
If you were punished at work or fired because you refused to participate in an illegal practice, you may be able to sue your employer for wrongful termination. For example, if you worked for a factory and refused to illegally dump the factory’s toxic waste into the river that flowed behind the factory and you were fired, you could sue the company for your damages for wrongful termination. Those damages could include compensation for wages, benefits, emotional damages, attorney’s fees, punitive damages, and more.
Many employers that illegally fire their employees claim the termination was for a different reason, as allegedly happened to the optometrist. An employer may know that you can’t be fired for refusing to participate in the illegal activities, and may slowly build a case for your termination against you so that the employer can point to proof that you were fired for another reason.
Many employees who face wrongful termination are good workers who have given a lot to the employer. They are often outraged when they are fired, and want justice from the legal system. If you feel that you have been illegally fired, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should not get away with firing good employees under false pretenses.
Liberty Law works with clients throughout the San Francisco area, including Oakland, Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, Berkeley and the surrounding areas. You can reach Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Schedule your free consultation today to learn about whether you have a case, and how Liberty Law can help.