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I think I may have been wrongfully terminated. Would I have a case given the following details?

San Francisco, CA |

A little over a year ago, my uncle got me a job with this company that he's on the board of directors of doing data entry on this database that he also works on. For a while, it was really more of a side job because most of the time I was taking some college courses and working another part time job that I had before this one. Literally, a few days before I was laid off, I decided to drop my classes and dedicate my time to working full time for this company. Anyways, a few months ago my uncle told me that they had a board meeting and that the CFO of the company (lets call this person "Pat") decided not to use the database anymore in order to cut costs, and in effect both my uncle and I lost our jobs working on it. (continued in "more details" section.)

At least that's the "official" reason. I then come to find out that the reason I lost my job was because my uncle didn't get along with Pat, upset Pat, and in effect Pat decided to abandon the database as retaliation. This caused me and my uncle to lose our jobs. So it wasn't really about cutting costs, it was more about Pat having a personal issue with my uncle and them not getting along, and just because I happen to be related to him, I also got the short end of the stick for something I had absolutely nothing to do with. Now, here are my questions. 1. Do I have a case? 2. I was told by other family members that this would be a waste of my time and energy. Are they right? 3 The company is in a different state (I telecommuted). If I do have a case, and I decide to sue, would I get (pardon the pun) home court advantage?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Nothing in the facts that you have summarized here suggests a sound claim for wrongful termination against your employer. The employer has the right to evolve in its business, change its methods, and to cease reliance on the data that you were working on. The fact that the decision may have been motivated by personal animus against another employee does not diminish this employer right.

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.


  2. I know of no general principle of law that your firing offends. Please note that the question of whether a termination was unfair is quite different from the question whether the termination was unlawful. What you describe seems quite unfair, but I can discern nothing in the facts you describe that would make it unlawful.

    Not legal advice, just my two cents. I neither practice law in California nor hold California licensure. Consult a lawyer in person to obtain legal advice based on all the facts and circumstances. I practice in Vermont ONLY.


  3. As the two previous responses mentioned, your facts do not suggest any unlawful act on the part of the employer. Unfortunately, employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

    There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/an-overview-of-at-will-employment-all-states. After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

    You specifically asked about wrongful termination. When people talk about “wrongful termination,” they are really talking about wrongful termination in violation of public policy. For a termination to be “wrongful,” it must violate a public policy.

    Public policy refers only to things that are specifically prohibited by a statute (law) enacted by the legislature, or prohibited by a regulation promulgated (established) by a government agency. An employer cannot change terms of employment or fire you if the reason for the change is against the law. For example, an employer cannot treat you differently or fire you because of your sex, race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age (40 years and older), religion, marital status or pregnancy; because you blew the whistle on safety violations; because you complained about improper wage and hour practices; because you exercised voting rights, family leave rights, jury duty rights, or domestic violence rights; or for any other reason prohibited by law.

    It is not enough to be within a legally protected group. You must be able to show there is a strong connection between the public policy and the termination. For example, if an employee yelled at the boss and requested family leave during the same week, then was fired the following week, the employee must be able to show she was fired because of her request for family leave and not because she yelled at the boss. There are various ways to make this showing, depending on the facts.

    Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

    I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

    twitter.com/MikaSpencer *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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