Generally, employees in California can be fired at any time for any reason based on the "at-will" employment doctrine. However, over the years in California many exceptions have been carved out of this general rule. The most common exceptions are found within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"), which protects employees from discriminatory treatment based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age or sexual orientation.
However, there are other instances that do not fall under the FEHA, but still are considered unlawful terminations in California. The courts and legislature of California have determined over the years that certain conduct by employers that violates public policy and/or punishes employees for reporting employer misconduct is unlawful. These types of terminations are commonly termed "retaliatory discharges." The protections afforded to employees are commonly referred to as "whistleblower" protections.
An employee may not be terminated for any reason that contravenes a fundamental public policy. Typically, protected employee conduct falls within the following four categories:
1. Refusing to violate a statute;
2. Performing a statutory obligation;
3. Exercising a constitutional right or privilege;
4. Reporting a statutory violation for the public benefit.
If an employee is terminated primarily based on taking any of the above-listed actions, a California court will likely find that the employer unlawfully terminated the employee.
If you suspect you have been wrongfully terminated, please contact Richardson "Red" Griswold of Griswold Law.