Unlawful Termination
What Makes a Termination Wrongful Under California Law?
What Makes a Termination Wrongful Under California Law?

What Makes a Termination Wrongful Under California Law?

Wrongful termination is a serious issue that can profoundly affect an employee’s life and livelihood. When an individual loses their job due to unlawful reasons, it disrupts their financial stability and emotional well-being. At Minnis & Smallets LLP, we understand the challenges employees face when wrongfully terminated and are committed to helping them seek justice. Our skilled attorneys are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal support to address wrongful termination and ensure that our clients’ rights are protected.

Understanding Wrongful Termination

Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons that violate California or federal laws. While most employment in California is “at-will,” meaning that an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason, there are certain exceptions to this rule, including unlawful terminations. Below, we explore the key factors that constitute wrongful termination under California law.


Discrimination-based termination is prohibited under both California and federal law. Employees are shielded from being fired based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, disability and other specified traits. For instance, if an employee is terminated because of their age or gender, it constitutes wrongful termination. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides robust protections against workplace discrimination.


Retaliation involves terminating an employee for engaging in legally protected activities. This could include reporting workplace misconduct, filing a complaint about discrimination or harassment or participating in an investigation against the employer. Retaliatory termination is strictly prohibited, ensuring that employees can exercise their rights without fear of losing their jobs.

Breach of Contract

When an employer violates the terms outlined in an employment contract, it is considered a breach of contract and may lead to wrongful termination. For example, if an employment agreement specifies that an employee can only be terminated for cause, firing the employee without valid reason breaches the contract. It is crucial for employees to understand their contractual terms and seek legal advice if they believe their termination violated these terms.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers who report unlawful activities within their organization are protected from wrongful termination. Laws such as the California Whistleblower Protection Act safeguard individuals who expose violations of laws, regulations, or safety standards. Wrongfully terminating a whistleblower not only violates the law but also undermines efforts to maintain ethical and lawful business practices.

Constructive Discharge

Constructive discharge occurs when an employer creates a hostile work environment that forces an employee to resign. This environment might include severe harassment, discrimination or unreasonable working conditions that make continued employment intolerable. In such cases, the resignation is treated as a termination, and the employee may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.

Legal Protections for Employees

Employees in California are protected against wrongful termination by various laws and regulations. These include the California Labor Code, FEHA and federal regulations such as the Civil Rights Act. These laws provide recourse for employees who have been wrongfully terminated, allowing them to seek compensation for lost wages, reinstatement and other damages. By consulting with experienced attorneys like those at Minnis & Smallets LLP, employees can better understand their rights and navigate the complexities of wrongful termination claims.

Reach Out to An Attorney

Wrongful termination has serious repercussions for employees, affecting their financial stability and emotional well-being. If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated, seeking legal guidance is crucial to understanding their rights. At Minnis & Smallets LLP, our dedicated team of attorneys is committed to providing personalized attention to help employees navigate wrongful termination cases. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation and take the first step toward seeking justice for unlawful termination.

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