There are many reasons an employer might terminate a worker’s employment. Under the California rule of at-will employment, many of these are lawful, but an employer cannot terminate an employee for a prohibited reason. These are important prohibitions. Years of discrimination and civil rights violations have led to unfair employment practices based on race, gender, disability, and other factors. When a San Francisco unlawful termination attorney holds employers accountable for unlawful termination, it is less likely that other California employers will try to unlawfully terminate other workers’ employment in the future.
Federal law has identified many specific reasons that cannot be a basis for terminating employment. These include:
California state law also expands these protections to various other categories. In addition to these categories, employers are generally prohibited from terminating employment because the employer reported violations of employment law to federal, state, or local employment authorities. This is known as retaliation.
One of the most common problems an employee faces in an unlawful termination case is proving an employer’s true motives for firing the employee. Most employers will be careful not to blatantly admit that a termination was made for an unlawful purpose. They may claim that the employee was “let go due to downsizing” or suddenly manufacture a history of performance issues. In these situations, several factors are important, such as the length of the employment relationship, the timing of events, the employee’s history of good performance, and the circumstances leading up to the termination decision.
So how does an employee prove that the termination was actually unlawful? There are many ways to do this. If, for example, the employer claims it needed to downsize, the employee could present evidence of healthy corporate finances or the fact that no other employees were terminated around the same time. If performance problems are alleged after the fact, the employee and coworkers can testify that the employer never confronted the employee about performance prior to the termination. There are many ways to rebut an employer’s claims of innocence with proof that there was actually an unlawful reason for termination. Ultimately, this evidence is useful in determining what the employer’s true motives were.
State and federal law prohibit firing a California employee for many reasons. These protections are an important legal right: many families would be left in precarious financial circumstances if employers were allowed to fire their workers for any reason. When employees hold an employer accountable for unlawful termination, it is less likely that other innocent workers will be fired for prohibited reasons. Contact the office of Minnis & Smallets today to schedule a consultation with an experienced San Francisco employment law attorney.