Wrongful Discharge and Termination
Federal and California law provide powerful protections against discrimination or harassment in the workplace based on a number of characteristics, including race, sex, age, national origin, disability, and religion. State law also prohibits discrimination based on additional traits, such as sexual orientation. An employer who takes adverse actions against you for complaining about unlawful conduct based on protected characteristics can be held accountable. Unfortunately, in spite of laws against it, some employers choose to retaliate. If you have been fired or otherwise mistreated for exercising your rights under federal or California law, you should consult the employment discrimination lawyers at the Calderone Law Firm. We have assisted many workers in the Manhattan Beach area and beyond with holding employers accountable for their unlawful conduct.Protections Against Wrongful Discharge and Termination
California is an at-will employment state. This means employers can generally discipline or fire employees as they wish. However, they are not permitted to terminate employment or take other adverse actions against an employee on the basis of any protected characteristic or for exercising rights in connection with the protected characteristic. This means, for example, a California worker cannot be fired simply for complaining to HR about sexual harassment or for filing a Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) complaint. He or she may not be terminated for being gay, for having particular religious beliefs, or possessing any other protected characteristic.
Similarly, employees cannot be fired for a reason contrary to public policy. For example, individuals who respond to a DFEH investigation to answer questions about an allegation of harassment or discrimination cannot be terminated for cooperating. They also cannot be required to answer questions in a way that supports the employer's legal strategy or defense.
Many employers are aware that wrongful termination is actionable, and they may choose to act in more subtle ways as a form of retaliation. An employer that is angered by an employee's sexual harassment complaint to DFEH may, for example, assign the individual to job tasks that will not advance his or her career or pay as well as other tasks, or the employer may change the employee's job title to something less prestigious. The goal of this type of behavior may be to frustrate the employee in the hope that he or she will quit independently without filing a grievance or being able to collect unemployment.
Retaliating against an employee this way can make work conditions intolerable for him or her. When a worker quits because the job conditions are so intolerable that he or she can no longer work for the company, this may be a constructive discharge. An employee who is constructively discharged can sue the employer and argue that he or she had no reasonable alternative given the conditions. Under California law, an employee who claims constructive discharge will have to show that the working conditions were so unusually adverse that a reasonable employee would feel compelled to resign, and the employer either intended to force the worker to resign or had actual knowledge of the unusually adverse conditions. In other words, an employer's conduct must be extraordinarily egregious to give rise to this claim.Discuss Your Employment Concerns with a Los Angeles Lawyer
At the Calderone Law Firm, our employment law attorneys believe that individuals throughout the Los Angeles area should not tolerate violations of their rights to work in a job that is free of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Our firm founder, Vincent Calderone, has been standing up for workers' rights for more than 20 years. We represent clients throughout Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. Contact us at (424) 348-8290 or via our online form to arrange a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not pay our costs unless we recover on your behalf.