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Employment Law & Litigation

Wrongful Termination

What is Wrongful Termination?


By its simplest definition, "wrongful termination" means firing someone for reasons that are illegal or violate the provisions of an employment contract.  However, because most employees in California are "at-will" and do not have formal, written employment contracts, wrongful termination usually arises when an employer fires someone in violation of state or federal law.

“At-Will” Employment in California


Most employees in California are hired as "at-will" employees, which means they do not have a formal employment agreement that guarantees the length of their employment and/or identifies specific circumstances under which they may be disciplined or terminated.  In a nutshell, "at-will" employees may be terminated at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all.  But, ALL employees are afforded certain protections under the law - and no employee can be terminated for reasons that are illegal or violate public policy, even if the employment is at-will.

"Violation of Public Policy" in California

In the wrongful termination context, "violation of public policy" usually means the employer broke the law, either by participating in unlawful discrimination or by retaliating against an employee who refused to do something illegal or who complained about illegal activity in the workplace.  Below are a few examples of both lawful and unlawful termination.

Lawful Termination:

Even though it may seem unfair, it is perfectly legal in the state of California to be fired for all sorts of reasons.  Below are just a few examples of unfair but perfectly legal reasons to be fired in California:

  • Personality conflict;

  • Business is slow;

  • The employer simply changed his or her mind about hiring you;

  • The employer doesn't like the way you dress, or the car you drive, or the things you post on social media

  • The employer's friend needs a job, so the employer fires you to make room for the friend;

  • Any reason that does not break the law.


Unlawful/Wrongful Termination:


If you believe that you were terminated for any of the following reasons, then you may have a claim for wrongful termination:

  • Discrimination based on your: 

    • Race, color, national origin, or ethnicity,

    • Age,

    • Religion,

    • Marital status,

    • Pregnancy or family leave status (FMLA),

    • Gender, gender identity, or gender expression,

    • Actual or perceived sexual orientation,

    • Actual or perceived physical or mental disability, medical condition, or genetic information, or

    • Military or veteran status;

  • You refused to do something illegal for your employer, such as:

    • Falsify financial documents,

    • Illegally dump toxic waste,

    • Ignore proper procedures in the medical profession, or

    • Fraudulently mislead customers about the quality of goods or services;

  • You spoke out, reported, or opposed unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace;

  • You spoke out, reported, opposed, or complained about your employer's unlawful wage practices, such as:

    • Failure to pay overtime,​

    • Failure to pay minimum wage,

    • Failure to provide meal or rest breaks, or

    • Misclassification of employees;

  • You were injured on the job or filed a worker's compensation claim;

  • You took or applied for Family or Medical Leave; or

  • You reported or opposed the employer's violation of local, state, or federal laws or regulations.

These are just a few of the most common examples.  If you feel that you have been terminated, disciplined, demoted, or                  otherwise treated in a way that seems illegal, then you may have a claim. 

Contact a San Diego Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today


Contact the Law Office of Zachary S. Schumacher to learn more about your rights and remedies under the law.  The initial consultation is always free and will remain confidential.  Many of our cases can be handled for little or no cost upfront, and we regularly take cases on a contingency basis, which means we get our attorney's fees as a percentage of the recovery when we win the case at trial or settlement.  




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