Wrongful termination in California
Are you a worker who has been fired as a result of discrimination, sexual harassment, and/or retaliation? You have legal rights.
What is Wrongful Termination?California is an *at will* state, meaning employers may terminate an employment relationship for any cause or no cause at all, even if the reason is dubious. However, an employer is not allowed to fire workers for reasons that are retaliatory or unlawful, as defined by the state. To sum it up, an employer may fire an employee as long as there is no unlawful conduct present. Otherwise, they may be sued by the wronged employee.
When would a termination be considered unlawful?In California, our state laws protect employees from being fired for the following reasons, among others:
Race, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, age, political affiliation, or some other classification that is protected by employment regulations;
Taking pregnancy, family, and/or medical leave;
Demanding lunch or rest breaks, or overtime pay;
Showing concern or complaining about unlawful activity within the company; and
Refusing to enter or complaining about an unsafe workplace.
What if I quit because of my working conditions but wasn*t terminated?If an employee is left with no option but to quit their job due to hostile working conditions, then they may seek damages for lost wages under what is called *constructive wrongful termination.* However, they are expected to use all internal reporting mechanisms available before quitting. An employee cannot simply quit and sue because of a single incident or because conditions are less than satisfactory.
What qualifies as discrimination?Workplace discrimination can be defined as negative treatment by an employer toward an employee or group of employees because of their protected class status (including race, color, age, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, pregnancy, genetic information, disability, and military and veteran status). Discrimination also includes harassment. Discrimination can occur on a spectrum from casual remarks, behavior or policies that intentionally or unintentionally impact one group of employees or individuals in a negative way, to severe behavior that adversely impacts someone*s career.
What are the time limits for filing a discrimination or harassment claim?In order to file a suit for sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, you must file an administrative claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and/or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).The statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim with the DFEH is one year from the date of the most recent incident of harassment. A victim of discrimination or harassment has only 180 days from the most recent incident of harassment to file an administrative claim with the EEOC. If the victim files a claim with the EEOC and the DFEH in parallel, the period to file the EEOC complaint is extended to 300 days from the date of the last incident of harassment, or within 30 days of receiving a right to sue letter from DFEH, whichever is earlier. If a victim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation fails to file an administrative claim with the EEOC or DFEH within the statute of limitations, they may be unable to move forward with a lawsuit.