What is “Wrongful Termination”?

The term “wrongful termination” is the generic name for a type of lawsuit in which an individual sues an employer for terminating his or her employment in violation of state or federal law.

California law provides that either an employer or an employee may terminate the employment relationship “at will.” The term “at will” implies that the employer may terminate the employment relationship with or without “cause” (that is, the employer is able to terminate the employment relationship (i.e., fire him or her) even if the employee is performing his or her job competently and consistent with the employer’s policies—the employee need not have done something “wrong” in order to be terminated). However, while the “at will” condition is often made explicit in employee handbooks and employment contracts, there are nevertheless certain conditions under which terminating an employee in California is illegal, and may subject an employer to civil liability.

When is Termination of Employment “Wrongful” or Illegal?

A termination may be wrongful under many different circumstances. These circumstances include terminations in violation of state and federal civil rights laws, such as termination due to discrimination or harassment on account of an employee’s race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, or sexual orientation. Other unlawful reasons may involve employers not following federal and state labor and employment laws, such as terminating an employee for serving on a jury; for taking time off to vote; for legitimately utilizing leave provisions contained in state and/or federal statutes; for asserting legitimate claims to overtime pay, rest breaks, or legally required safety equipment or conditions; for retaliating in response to justified complaints about working conditions and terms; and so on.

In addition, in California, termination is also unlawful when being fired is for a reason that offends public policy. Under California law, “public policy” is not strictly defined, but can include reasons like:


  • Terminating an employee for refusing to do something illegal;
  • Terminating an employee for doing something that California or federal law gives the employee a right to do (such as engaging in certain legal activities that are outside of, and do not adversely affect the employee’s or employer’s work or business);
  • Terminating the employee for making a valid formal complaint about something at work;
  • Terminating an employee for complaining to an uninvolved third party about the employer or the job;
  • Terminating the employee on a pretext that is intended to mask an illegal reason, such as discrimination;
  • Terminating an employee without following the procedures outlined in the employer’s own handbook or according to expressly stated employment policies established by the employer;
  • Terminating the employee for “whistleblowing” on other employees or on the employer for violating the law or public policy;
  • “Constructive termination,” where an employer purposefully makes the workplace or the job so unpleasant, uncomfortable, or personally risky for the employee that they have no reasonable option but to resign; and
  • Other reasons of public policy deemed sufficient by a court.


Wrongful Termination Violations in California

California employees who have suffered unlawful conduct by their employer are protected by provisions of the California Constitution, and by provisions of California statutory law, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), as well as by principles of public policy identified in California case law.

If you have been terminated from your job in California, and you believe that there is something “fishy” about the circumstances of your termination, contact the California wrongful termination/unlawful termination attorneys in Whittier at The Goldbach Law Group. Our attorneys can help you to evaluate the legal implications of your situation, and, with our knowledge of California’s broad protections for employees, we can help you identify whether you have a legitimate civil claim for wrongful termination from your former employer.

Our Whittier wrongful termination attorneys are experienced and professional employment litigators. We can help you file your claim and we will work diligently and aggressively to make sure that you obtain the legal remedies that you are entitled to. In wrongful termination cases, you may be entitled to reinstatement, to lost or foregone wages, or to any other damages that may be available by statute, depending upon the nature of your claim. In some cases, where the circumstances surrounding the termination are especially egregious, we may also be able to obtain punitive damages against the employer and help prevent them from victimizing other employees in the future.

If you were fired and experienced a termination that you believe violates federal or state statutory law or against public policies recognized by the California courts, contact the Whittier wrongful termination attorneys at the The Goldbach Law Group. Your initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation to retain our firm. Call us today.  If you believe you have a case, get the advice and information you need as soon as possible, before you forfeit important rights by letting your legal claims lapse.

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