A California Wrongful Termination Defense Attorney

Employers Rely On

California employers must understand the employment world in which they operate.  That includes an understanding of California labor and employment laws.  Whether employers run union shops, have contract employees or are governed by statutory law, the rules of engagement can be a moving target.  A California wrongful termination defense attorney can guide you through the shifting maze of employment law in California to prevent and defend against wrongful termination claims.

What a California Wrongful Termination Defense Attorney Can Do for You

If there’s one constant in employment law, it’s that California employees enjoy broad protections.  The area of wrongful termination is no exception.  Employers need a thorough understanding of the law as it relates to the different types of employment relationships and the protections afforded to each. 

An employer may be surprised by a wrongful termination claim because of a misunderstanding about the nature of the employment relationship. Alternatively, the employer may unwittingly create the basis for a wrongful termination claim merely by following its own written policies or by its routine and well-meaning treatment of employees.  Defending wrongful termination claims in California can be challenging under these circumstances.

A California wrongful termination defense attorney helps employers understand and establish employment relationships intentionally, create and follow policies to guide those relationships and defend against wrongful termination claims.

At-Will Employment in California

In California, most employer/employee relationships are considered to be “at-will.”  In at-will employment, either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason or no reason at all. 

At-will employment is the default, but the nature of the relationship and rights afforded the parties can be modified by any of the following:

  • Statutory law such as that governing governmental employees.
  • Union contracts.
  • Specific employment contracts.
  • Implied employment contracts.

In the last example, the law may imply a contract in some circumstances even when no actual employment contract exists.  For example, an employee handbook or simply the behavior of the employer over time may be enough to create an implied contractual relationship. 

California employers need guidance from an experienced California wrongful termination defense lawyer to establish and follow wrongful termination defense best practices in creating and terminating employment relationships.

What Constitutes Wrongful Termination in California

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and certain federal laws prohibit “wrongful termination” of employees regardless of the nature of the employment relationship.  Examples of federal laws that may serve as a foundation for a wrongful termination claim include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Terminating employment could be grounds for a wrongful termination claim if it fits one of the following categories:

  • The termination violates the provision of any California or federal law.
  • It violates the terms of an employment contract.
  • It violates the employer’s established employment and termination policies.
  • It is based on discriminatory reasons.
  • It retaliates for an employee’s exercise of a protected activity.
  • It is in violation of public policy.

In each of these cases, a wrongful termination claim may be based on protections afforded by statute, by case law, or by a contract between the employer and employee.  The continuing development of case law and passage of new laws make employment law in California a shifting landscape.  A seasoned California wrongful termination defense lawyer vigilantly follows the changing winds to keep employers up-to-date on preventing and defending wrongful termination claims in California.

Doesn’t At-Will Employment Prevent Wrongful Termination Claims?

Because either party can terminate employment for any reason at all in an at-will employment relationship, many employers may believe that termination in those instances is immune from a wrongful termination claim.  That is not the case.

Employers not governed by a specific statute or union contract are free to operate on an at-will basis, but in today’s world, it is hard to establish an orderly workplace while remaining at-will. 

Employers often establish rules for the workplace that give employees guidance on everything from clothing to behavior.  They also have a natural tendency to either state or demonstrate in action what happens when violations of standards occur.  If not handled correctly, this can be the beginning of the end for treatment of employees on an at-will basis. 

All types of employment relationships can fall prey to allegations of wrongful termination.  Thus, while there is no such thing as wrongful termination under the at-will employment in theory, in reality, California law allows even at-will employees claims for wrongful termination in certain circumstances.  For example, at-will employees may assert wrongful termination claims where the employment violates established law or public policy.

Employers that seek only at-will employment relationships need regular guidance from an experienced California employer attorney.

How a California Wrongful Termination Defense Attorney Helps Employers Do Things Right

Following and understanding the law on employment relationships is the first step for employers to avoid wrongful termination claims in California.  The next step is to establish and follow wrongful termination defense best practices. 

Employers need guidance from a California employer defense lawyer to accurately identify the nature of the employment relationship.  As noted above, sometimes a policy, employee handbook or behavior can create an implied contract of employment.  An employer-side attorney can help identify the nature of employment relationships as well as the slippery slope of behaviors that can convert at-will employment into employment by implied contract with heightened termination restrictions.

Once the employer has accurately identified the nature of the employment relationships, it must align its treatment of employees with the relationship that exists.  That means following the employment handbook, the written or oral policies, and the practices that have been followed in the past.

Choose Susan A. Rodriguez as Your California Wrongful Termination Defense Attorney

One of the best things an employer can do is to engage the services of the right California wrongful termination defense attorney on the front end.  At the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC, we have three decades of experience defending wrongful termination cases and helping employers position themselves to avoid such cases.  Contact us today by calling (213) 943-1323 or by navigating to our contact page online to schedule an appointment.

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