Wrongful termination happens when an employer fires an employee unlawfully. Employees who are unfairly dismissed can therefore sue their employer to recoup damages. In some cases, the employer may bear substantial expenses and penalties. Oakland wrongful termination attorneys at Minnis & Smallets can help clients who feel they were terminated unlawfully.
The attorneys at Minnis & Smallets have the knowledge and insight needed to recover the money lost when someone is terminated without just cause.
Wrongful termination may happen for one of many reasons. However, it often occurs when there is a breach of contract, a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, or when an employer retaliates.
Employers terminate employees “for good cause” if the employee violates certain conditions listed in an employment agreement. Otherwise, without a contract in force, the employee is considered an at-will employee.
Therefore, the relationship between an employer and employee, without an employment agreement, is at-will. This means that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship with or without cause at any time during the relationship. Neither party needs to give notice.
Employment at will, in the most basic terms, means that an employee cannot sue an employer for breach of an implied contract – or under an agreement that shows a good cause for terminating the employer-employee relationship.
It does not mean that an employee cannot sue the employer for other wrongs, such as discrimination, retaliation, or violations of specific laws (including medical and family leave policies or whistleblower activities). Employees may also sue for terminations that violate the public policies set forth in state and federal laws and regulations.
Employees who are not at-will employees sign employment agreements that state that their termination is based on certain conditions – conditions that fit a written agreement’s description for good cause.
Even if an employee does not sign a written agreement with their employer, the court may still find for an employee who proves they have an implied contract or oral agreement with their employer that supports their wrongful termination case. While an express contract represents a verbal or written agreement that is defined by specific terms, an implied contract of employment is not expressed either in writing or verbally between the employee and employer. Instead, the agreement is deemed to exist based on the employer’s prior statements or actions. Therefore, an implied contract may exist if an employer has a company policy in force that states the employer only terminates employees “for good cause.”
If an employer lets an employee go unfairly, the employee may prove that the employer violated their covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (Every employment agreement imputes that each party follows an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.)
This means that each party in a contract presumptively promises to hold their part of the agreement in good faith so that the other party may enjoy the benefits of the contract. Therefore, an employer is obligated, in California, to cooperate so the employee can accomplish the duties associated with their job.
Breaches of good faith and fair dealing may include negligence, a failure to cooperate, or a lack of diligence. Breaches may also result from a party’s lies or evasiveness, even if the party feels justified. An employer can avoid this problem by following their company’s employment policies and practices, upholding the relevant employment laws, and being truthful. Good faith translates to being honest, while fair dealing means meeting the contractual obligations of an agreement.
Wrongful termination sometimes results from a sexual harassment complaint. In California, an employer has an affirmative obligation to provide working conditions free of sexual harassment. Therefore firing an employee for reporting or complaining about sexual harassment is against the law. This is true even if the claim is directed against a client or someone else in the company.
Employees who witness sexual harassment against an employee and make a complaint or take part in an investigation cannot be fired as well.
Besides breaking an employment agreement or complaining about sexual harassment, a wrongful termination may happen for the following reasons:
An employee that experiences wrongful termination should immediately contact an attorney if the following circumstances apply.
Oakland wrongful termination attorneys at Minnis & Smallets are the go-to lawyers for anyone who has a wrongful termination claim. Schedule a consultation for more information today.
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