Do you know if you've been wrongfully terminated?

Wrongful termination laws are in place for a reason: to protect workers who have been illegally fired. Most people on the job are considered "at will" employees, and can be fired for any reason as long as it is not illegal. However, employees or contractors cannot be terminated for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

In a recent case near Oakland, a California appeals court upheld a lower court's decision to award $1.3 million to a female self-storage employee wrongfully terminated because she was pregnant. This is a prime example of wrongful termination as it was a discriminatory and illegal for her former employer to fire her.

Most cases discriminatory

The majority of wrongful terminations cases are related to discrimination such as the Oakland-area employee's case. The list may include discrimination based on race, color, gender, ethnic background, religion, disability, pregnancy and age. In California, LGBT employees are protected. If a transgendered person gets fired from a job, that person may have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the employer.

It also is illegal to fire an employee for lodging a legal complaint against the employer or exposing the employer's wrongdoing as a "whistleblower." If an employer fires someone in such scenarios, it is considered "retaliatory" and illegal.

Some protected activities

There are a number of other protected activities for which an employee cannot be fired, and some include:

  • Seeking to form a union
  • Medical leave
  • Sitting on a jury
  • Serving in the military
  • Taking time off to vote

If you suspect that you have been wrongfully terminated, file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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