California is an at-will employment state, which means (absent an employment contract) that unless the public policy or statutory authority prohibits the reason for terminating an employee, an employer may fire an employee for any reason. In the past, at-will employment has given employers the sense that they can fire employees for any reason, including prohibited reasons such as racial discrimination, using at-will employment as their defense. As wrongful termination attorneys know, employees are starting to fight back and juries appear to be listening to those employees.
Recent wrongful termination cases
Recent California cases have shown that former employees are standing up to their employers for wrongful termination and some of them are receiving multimillion-dollar jury awards as a result. See below for some notable recent wrongful termination cases.
- In December, two nurses filed wrongful termination complaints against Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena who claim that they were targeted and ultimately fired as a result of racial discrimination. A trial has not yet begun.
- In December, a former Adelanto city employee filed a wrongful termination suit against the city alleging that he was fired for cooperating with an FBI investigation of city officials. A trial has not yet begun.
- In November a jury awarded more than $3.5M to a former Catholic school teacher who alleged that she was wrongfully terminated because she was pregnant and unmarried.
- Last May, a jury awarded a former Fresno Chipotle employee $8M in a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that the employee was fired in retaliation for making a workers’ compensation claim for a work-related wrist injury.
What do these cases have in common? The former employees’ complaints all allege that their rights were violated when they were wrongfully terminated for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons. Pasadena wrongful termination attorneys know that even though California may be an at-will employment state, employees are still protected from being fired as a result of discrimination or retaliation. Wrongful termination cases can be a powerful remedy for illegal employer conduct.
Retaliation and discrimination
See below for a brief explanation and examples of illegal retaliation and discrimination.
- Retaliation – Illegal retaliatory conduct occurs when an employer fires an employee or takes action that otherwise negatively impacts an employee’s job because the employee participated in activities or conduct that is legally protected by California law.
- Discrimination – Discrimination occurs when an employee’s job is in jeopardy because he or she is a member of a class protected under California law including gender, gender identity, race, national origin, age, disability, religion, political affiliation, marital status, and military status. There are additional protected classes under California law and you should consult with an employment law attorney if you believe you were discriminated against.
If you have been wrongfully terminated, contact a Pasadena wrongful termination attorney with Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers to discuss your claim and resulting damages. Our attorneys are employee advocates who want to see employers held accountable for their wrongful conduct.