If you have been terminated by your employer for an illegal reason or in breach of an employment contract, you can sue for wrongful termination. An illegal reason or breach of contract is required because most employment in California is on an “at will” basis by law. This means that an employer can terminate an employee because of the color of his socks, because the employee drives a gas guzzler or even because the employer wrongly believes that the employee is not doing a good job. Many employees believe that if the employer falsely accuses them of doing something wrong that a wrongful termination claim arises. This is false; even if the employee did absolutely nothing wrong and the employer is completely mistaken, there is probably no claim unless the employer is in breach of an employment contract that controls the issue.

So the question is, what is an illegal reason for termination? An illegal reason is one based on or done because of a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include race, religion, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, national origin, etc. It is also illegal to fire an employee because the employee complained of or reported illegal acts by the employer. Firing an employee for complaining about labor law violations, such as unpaid overtime or failure to provide meal and rest breaks, is another common basis for a wrongful termination claim.

The employee will need to be able to explain why she believes the termination was for an illegal reason. What was said or done to the employee to make her believe this was the reason? Is there anything in writing to support the claim? Are there witnesses? These are all questions that are fully explored in the first meeting with a prospective client.

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