There are a lot of people who get fired (or laid off) and they believe that the firing was illegal. Many people think their job is guaranteed or that employers have to have a good reason to fire them. This is not true in California. California is an “at-will” state, which means that by law, employees can be fired for any reason or no reason, unless the reason they are fired is illegal.
If you’ve been fired or laid off, you may think that this means you have no rights. This isn’t true. There are still situations in which your firing or layoff may have been illegal. Some instances in which an employer can’t fire an employee include retaliation, illegal discrimination, cases in which there’s an employment contract in place, if you’re a government employee (in some cases), if you are a union member (in some cases), or if you are fired because you refuse to do something that’s illegal or unethical.
There are many cases in which people who are fired or laid off have claims against their employers they aren’t aware of, which may or may not include wrongful termination. If your employer refused to pay you overtime, didn’t pay you for all of your hours, isn’t paying you for unused vacation time, or anything similar, you may have a claim against the employer for that situation even if you aren’t entitled to a claim for wrongful termination.
Typically, when a person is fired or laid off, they are asked to sign a severance agreement in exchange for compensation and benefits for a certain period of time. You may be desperate upon learning that you are losing your income stream and be tempted to sign the agreement. However, severance agreements usually ask you to sign away any legal rights you have against the employer. Don’t sign the agreement without at least consulting with an attorney to find out your legal rights.
If you are classified as an independent contractor, it’s virtually impossible to be wrongfully terminated, since no employment relationship exists. However, often employer will incorrectly classify employees as independent contractors so that they can take advantage of the legal and financial benefits of hiring independent contractors instead of employees. If you were told you are an independent contractor when you believe you’re actually an employee, contact an employment law attorney, who can help you understand the legal distinction.
There are many examples of wrongful termination, which could include firing all people of a certain age or ethnic group, firing someone who failed to break the law, firing an employee who becomes pregnant, and firing an employee who’s under an employment contract. Although all of these reasons for firing an employee are illegal, often the employers will claim that the termination was because of a different reason. These reasons are usually after-the-fact justifications.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should not be allowed to wrongfully terminate their employees and get away with it. If you’re in the San-Francisco – Oakland area, including Berkeley, Fairfield, Hayward, Tracy and the surrounding areas, and you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will give you more information on wrongful termination and how to protect your legal rights.