Are things becoming uncomfortable at the office? Where you used to shine and thrive, do you now meet awkward glances and stilted conversation? Maybe there is a younger group of executives moving in, and you don't fit with the new brand the company is trying to create. Are you sensing that the ax is about to fall?
Perhaps, after your years of service to the company, raising profits and securing clients, you have felt your position as an executive was secure. Now the atmosphere is changing for whatever reason, and you suspect there are plans in the works to let you go. Is there really anything you can do about it?
At-will does not excuse wrongful termination
Even though California is one of the many at-will employment states in the country, this does not mean your termination is legal. For example, if firing you is in breach of your employment contract, your supervisor would be in the wrong. Your contract may not even expressly state the conditions or terms for termination, but these terms may have been part of an oral agreement, outlined in an employee manual or included in your offer letter.
In addition to breaching contract, it would be illegal for your company to fire you for the following reasons:
- Violation of public policy if you refuse to participate in questionable activities in the company
- Retaliation if you identified or reported inappropriate or illegal activities in the company
- Discrimination if you belong to a protected class, such as race, gender or age
You may also find the workplace environment too hostile to continue and feel compelled to resign on your own. You may receive a pay cut or lose important prestige in the business. On the other hand, your supervisor may strongly suggest you hand in your resignation to avoid the negative consequences of termination. In either case, leaving your job under such circumstances can create a difficult barrier for you to overcome in the future, for example:
- Losing the benefit of severance pay
- Damaging your professional reputation
- Complicating your explanation for leaving when meeting with potential employers
- Hindering your chances of claiming unemployment benefits
If you are considering turning in your resignation, or if you have already lost your position, you have every right to seek legal advice about your options, especially if you feel your supervisor has wrongfully terminated you. Possibly, all it will take to turn matters to your benefit is for an experienced attorney to make your supervisor aware of the risks involved in a wrongful termination. Having such an advocate may help you see a brighter future moving forward.