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Under California’s Labor Code, any employment relationship with no specific duration is considered “at-will” employment. By definition, an at-will employment relationship enables both employers and employees to terminate employment at any time, with or without cause. Exceptions apply to at-will termination are when a termination violates a statute, court ruling, public policy, and another law or regulation. While most employees in the state of California fall into the category of at-will employees, they still maintain certain legal rights that protect them against wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination cases may involve:

  • Discrimination
  • Employer retaliation
  • Implied contracts
  • Good faith dealings


Wrongful termination may occur when an employee is terminated for illegal reasons, which usually implies that the termination violates a law or regulation as established in a statute, policy or court ruling. An employee can be wrongfully terminated for a variety of reasons. Statutory discrimination – Employers cannot terminate employees based on a protected category of characteristics, including race, religion, marital status, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, medical condition, or sexual orientation, among others. Protected activities – As employees have the legal right to participate in certain protected activities, they also have the right to be protected against adverse employment repercussions for exercising their right to participate in such activities. Employers cannot terminate employees on the basis of pregnancy, family, medical or military leave. Other protected activities can include voting and serving jury duty. Employer retaliation – Employees cannot be fired for opposing certain conduct or for employer retaliation. Common examples that constitute a wrongful termination can include such grounds as opposing unlawful activity, refusing to enter an unsafe workplace, and protesting against discrimination, harassment, wage violations and other various employer violations. Other types of wrongful termination – Sometimes employees have an “implied contract” with their employer, which prevents their employer from firing them without cause. The court may determine whether such a condition existed by examining promises of job security, your employee handbook of policies and job performance evaluations. Often implied contracts are informal, so it is helpful to bring an experienced employment law attorney onto your case to ensure your rights remain protected. California courts also recognize a claim called “breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” An example of this could include if you were promised a commission so many days after making a sale but were terminated before the commission was due to be paid. Terminating the relationship to avoid paying the commission would violate good faith and fair dealing.


If you have more questions about what could constitute wrongful termination, check out our wrongful termination FAQ. You can also receive more information from the California Chamber of Commerce. When it can be shown, clearly and convincingly, that an employer based the termination on these or other similar factors rather than a legitimate business reason, wrongfully terminated employees may be eligible to recover financial compensation for their damages. This can include lost work wages and the value of lost benefits. Other cases may also permit unlawfully terminated employees to recover emotional damages and punitive damages. As cases and recoverable damages depend heavily on the personal circumstances and facts involved, we invite you to find specific answers that relate to your situation during a free case evaluation with one of our Southern California employment attorneys. If you or your loved one has reason to believe that you may have been wrongfully terminated, the experienced, bold and aggressive representation you need to assert your rights is available at the Diefer Law Group, P.C. Comprising a talented legal team that draws from more than 60 years of combined experience, we have the ability and willingness to fight for your rights and the best possible outcome. If you would like to learn more about wrongful termination, the potential merits of your case and how our firm can help, contact a Southern California employment attorney from Diefer Law Group today.


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Diefer Law Group, P.C.


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