WRONGFUL TERMINATIONS AND EMPLOYEE PROTECTIONS (CALIFORNIA)
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Imagine this scenario: You are a middle-aged white male employee who has been working as a widget manufacturer for your company in California for the past several years.
One day, your boss announces that he wants the company to project a more modern image by hiring a new workforce of all transgendered minorities under 40. You are told that you really won't fit in with the new image and you are then unceremoniously fired and shown the door.
Do you have a claim against the company? Yep. And if you happen to be a transgendered minority under 40, don't feel bad. This same scenario would equally apply to you as well if you were kicked out of a job in order to make room for a white, middle-aged guy.
In California, a variety of state and federal laws protect workers from wrongful terminations and discriminatory policies by employers.
If you are working without an employment contract or special collective bargaining agreement, you are generally considered to be what is known as an "at will" employee. This means that an employer can fire you at any time, for any reason as long as it does not violate specific laws related to employee rights.
What follows is a list of many of the major laws in California protecting employees from being wrongfully terminated. Keep in mind however, that this is by no means a complete list and that many of these laws will only apply if the company you work at has a certain minimum number of employees. Please consult an attorney for further details.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act, also known as "FEHA".
FEHA prevents discrimination against employees based on their protected status in a number of areas including - race, color, age, sex (including transgender status), sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability or medical conditions, marital status and pregnancy. The California Occupational Safety and Health Act
FEHA applies to any company with 5 or more employees.
, also known as "Cal-OSHA".
Cal-OSHA prevents you from being fired or punished for making a good faith complaint about safety conditions in your workplace to either your boss or a government agency. "Whistleblower" protections
"OSHA" laws mandate a minimum level of safety conditions in the workplace. Cal-OSHA also prevents you from be punished for refusing to work in dangerous circumstances that violate state or federal OSHA laws.
Likewise, you can not be punished by your employer for informing any government agency about violations of the law in the workplace. These are known as "whistleblower" protections.Refusing to perform illegal acts
Your employer can not punish you for refusing to perform an act that violates the law.Worker's Comp
You can not be punished for becoming injured on the job and then filing a worker's compensation claim or appeal. You can also not be punished for testifying in another employee's worker's compensation case.Garnished Wages
Your employer can not punish you because a court has garnished your wages or has threatened to do so as part of a court order. The California Family Rights Act
In other words, if a court takes money out of your paycheck because it ordered you to pay some for a past debt, unfulfilled child support, or alimony, etc., then your boss can not punish you for that. Such matters are considered separate from workplace disputes.
This law prevents you from being fired for taking leave from work in order to deal with a serious health condition that you may have, as well as serious health conditions of your parents, children, or spouse. Pregnancy Disability Leave
It also protects your right to take time off in order to care for your newborn child or newly adopted child.
Please note however that your company must have at least 50 or more employees in order for this law to apply.
California law guarantees the right of workers to take up to four months of unpaid leave if they are pregnant, even if an employer objects. Needless to say, it is unlawful to fire someone who chooses to take advantage of their rights under this law. Keep in mind however that this law only applies if your employer has five or more employees.Jury Duty or Court Appearances
You can not be fired for taking time off of work to serve on a jury or appear as a witness in a case, as long as you give your employer reasonable advance notice.Political Beliefs and Participation
An employer can not fire or punish you for your political beliefs or for participating in political activities (unless they involve the violent revolution). However, some workplaces may restrict the wearing of political buttons or active campaigning at the workplace during business hours.Federal Protections
There are also a variety of federal laws offering similar protections to you in the workplace (Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act for instance). More often than not, the California statues prove to have even broader protections than the federal laws. However, anyone who feels that they were wrongfully terminated would still be wise to consider statutes under both California and Federal law.
: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.