Being Wrongly Terminated
An action for wrongful termination may arise when an employee has been released from their employment in violation of an employment contract, company policy or state or federal law. The vast majority of California employees do not have an employment contract; as such, their employment is considered what a San Jose wrongful termination attorney characterizes as “at-will.”
Absent a contract, or other agreement either written or verbal, employment is at the will of both the employee and the employer. The employee, for example, is free to leave and hire on with a competitor. The employer, on the other hand, can fire the employee at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. There are circumstances, however, where the actions of the employer serve to modify the at-will relationship and a de facto contract is implied by the law.
Modifying At-will Employment
Under California law, an employer’s actions can either expressly or implicitly modify the at-will relationship. A modification may be found if, for example, the employer issued a written employee manual with a section outlining expected behavior, grounds for discipline and a termination procedure. Under these circumstances, if an employee was terminated for a reason other than those outlined, they may have a cause of action. Similarly, oral assurances from an employer may serve to modify an at-will relationship.
Termination for Good Cause
If the at-will nature of the relationship has been modified, the employer may not terminate an employee absent “good cause.” Good cause has been held to mean fair and honest reasons by an employer acting in good faith that should include notice of the improper conduct and an opportunity for the employee to respond.
Unlawful At-will Termination
Even if the employee is at-will, a termination decision based on discrimination or retaliation is unlawful.
State and federal laws afford protections against discrimination based on
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
Additionally, an employer may not terminate a n employee on the basis of the employee engaging in a protected activity, such as filing a discrimination lawsuit, filing a workers’ compensation claim, reporting unsafe working conditions, reporting illegal activities or cooperating with any official or government investigation.
Contact a San Jose Wrongful Termination Lawyer for Legal Advice
Employers have a distinct advantage in any employer/employee conflict; they have more resources and control access to company records. If you believe you have been treated unfairly, you need to level the playing field. Call Lori Costanzo at 408-993-8493.