California is an at-will employment state. This means employees in California can quit their jobs without giving notice to their employers at any time. However, it also means employers have the freedom to terminate employees for almost any reason.
“Almost” is the key word in that sentence. Both federal law and California law establish reasons an employer can’t legally terminate an employee.
Do you believe you’ve been the victim of wrongful termination in California? If so, this guide will help you understand how to take legal action.
What is Wrongful Termination?
It is illegal in California for an employer to fire an employee if doing so involves discriminating against a worker based on certain protected characteristics. These characteristics include:
- Gender/gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Pregnancy and/or parenthood
- Marital status
- Military/veteran status
- Genetic information
It is also illegal for employers in California to fire employees in acts of retaliation. For example, perhaps an employee has filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. Their employer can’t fire them for doing so. Additionally, employers can’t fire employees for taking leave that they are legally permitted to take.
Reporting Wrongful Termination To the California Civil Rights Department
The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) is a state agency handling complaints regarding discrimination and other such mistreatment in the workplace. The CRD’s website offers information on how to file a complaint.
You have three years from the time your employer terminated you to file a complaint. Don’t delay, as you might forfeit your right to take legal action if you wait too long to proceed.
The CRD will independently investigate your complaint when you file it. If the CRD finds evidence of wrongful termination, the agency may file a lawsuit against your employer on your behalf. Or, the CRD might notify you, letting you know you have grounds to sue your employer.
Reporting Wrongful Termination To the EEOC
Both federal law and state law govern what does and doesn’t constitute wrongful termination. Along with filing a report with the CRD, you might thus also file a report with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC’s website provides directions for doing so.
Be aware, some state agencies immediately file complaints and reports of discrimination and wrongful termination with the EEOC when individuals contact them. When corresponding with the CDR, ask if they will also file your report with the EEOC on your behalf. You might not need to file it on your own if they handle this step.
Speak With An Employment Law Attorney
If you think you’ve been the victim of wrongful termination in California, an employment law attorney could review your case to determine if you have reason to take legal action. A lawyer could also help you build the strongest possible case by assisting you with such tasks as gathering evidence.
Navigating the wrongful termination complaint process in California could overwhelm you if you have limited experience in these matters. Luckily, you don’t need to go it alone. Fill out the Free Case Evaluation to get connected with an independent employment law attorney who subscribes to the website and may be able to help with your case.