Losing your job is tough. Millions of people annually receive so-called pink slips, and for many, this is a devastating blow. You may have suffered this setback recently. Whether it came out of the blue or was something you have been anticipating for a while, you may be having a difficult time dealing with the embarrassment and anxiety of having to look for work.
You may even be feeling angry, especially if you liked the job and had worked hard to get to your position. It is natural to wonder if there is some way to get even with a boss who fired you, but before you take any rash steps, you should review the situation to see if the termination was legal.
Stepping over the line
California, like most states, has at-will employment. This means that most employers can fire a worker – or the worker can quit – without giving a reason. However, there are certain situations that make a termination illegal, and you will want to understand those factors before moving forward with any legal action against your former employer, for example:
- If your job was at the managerial or executive level, chances are you signed a contract. You would do well to read your contract carefully to see if it includes a section defining the fair causes required for your employer to legally fire you.
- Your employer may have terminated you after learning that you were trying to organize your colleagues to improve the working conditions. This is different from venting or complaining, which may be a valid reason for termination.
- Losing your job soon after reporting illegal or unethical practices in the workplace may be an example of retaliation, which is unlawful.
- You may also be a victim of retaliation if your boss fired you after you filed a claim for workers' compensation.
- If your employer learns that you have a medical history that includes a high risk for certain conditions, he or she would be out of line to fire you based on that information.
It may seem that the U.S. has moved past such issues, but an employer cannot fire you for discriminatory reasons. If you believe your termination is related to your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy or other protected status, you have every right to seek legal advice about your options. While proving your boss wrongfully terminated you will not be an easy goal to reach, a skilled advocate will improve your chances of a successful challenge.