Serving Employees And Employers

Unlawful Termination Can Lead To Lawsuits

Last updated on October 6, 2023

California is an at-will state. That means that unless an employee is employed under a union contract (collective bargaining agreement) or an employment contract for term, most employers are free to discharge an employee at any time with or without cause and with or without notice, and employees are free to quit at any time. However, under certain circumstances, the law affords a remedy when the termination is wrongful.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination (a.k.a. a Tameny claim) is a common-law cause of action that arises when an employer discharges an employee for an unlawful purpose and which violates public policy.

Generally, wrongful termination cases fall under four general categories. These are terminations in violation of a statute that expressly prohibits an employer from discharging an employee for a specified reason; terminations for exercising constitutional or statutory rights or privileges; terminations for refusing to engage in unlawful conduct; and terminations for reporting unlawful activities by the employer or others at work (whistleblowing).

Examples of cases in which employees were wrongfully terminated in violation of public policies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • An employee terminated because of his/her physical disability, religion, gender, race, national origin, medical condition, marital status or sexual orientation
  • An employee fired for refusing to sign a covenant not to compete
  • An employee discharged for reporting on the employer’s failure to pay overtime wages
  • An employee discharged for reporting on the employer’s failure to provide meal periods or rest breaks
  • An employer discharged employee to avoid paying him accrued commissions and vacation pay
  • An employee laid off for reporting the misappropriation of public funds
  • An employee fired for reporting sexual harassment
  • An employee terminated for testifying or participating at a court hearing, deposition or investigation regarding a coworker’s complaint about harassment or discrimination
  • An employee suspended without pay for discussing wages with his coworkers
  • An employee terminated for demanding to be paid the same wages as her male counterparts

Is Actual Termination Required In Order To Sue Under A Tameny Claim?

No, the ultimate penalty of termination need not occur in order to sue under a Tameny claim. Tameny claims may be maintained by employees who are suspended or laid off without pay for reasons that violate public policy.

Can An Independent Contractor Sue On A Claim For Wrongful Termination?

No, only employees, as opposed to independent contractors, may sue on a Tameny claim. The law requires the existence of an employer-employee relationship to sue on a wrongful termination claim.

Call The Firm Today

We, at the DeVito Law Group, understand that losing one’s job is one of the most detrimental events that an employee may experience. Contact us today if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated.