As its name implies, a wrongful termination occurs when your employer fires you illegally. Even though California is an at-will employment state, meaning that either you or your employer can terminate your employment whenever one of you wishes, certain situations exist under which your employer cannot fire you without facing legal consequences for his or her wrongful action.
As FindLaw explains, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids your employer to terminate you based on any of the following:
- Your race, color or ethnic origin
- Your religion
- Your age
- Your gender
- Your disability
Nor can your employer fire you in retaliation for your filing a discrimination case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Likewise, he or she cannot terminate you when you become a whistleblower, i.e., file a complaint against your employer for alleged wrongdoing. He or she also cannot fire you for any of the following:
- Taking time off to serve on a jury
- Taking time off to serve in the military
- Taking a legitimate medical or family leave of absence
- Seeking to establish a labor union
Additional California protections
California has its own wrongful termination laws. In addition to prohibiting all of the above types of termination, California also forbids your employer from firing you based on your sexual orientation, LGBT community identification, or your status as a transgender person.
If you and your employer have a written employment contract, both of you must live up to its provisions. In other words, your employment contract overrides California’s at-will employment laws and gives you whatever job security the contract provides for. Your employer cannot fire you in violation of this contract.