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Signs of wrongful termination in an at-will state like California

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | Wrongful Termination |

Just because you are an employee in an at-will state like California does not mean your employer can terminate you illegally. People face wrongful termination all the time. It happens when an employer fires an employee for unlawful and unfair reasons. Fortunately, state and federal laws protect employees from their employer’s prohibited adverse actions.

Here are signs your employer could have wrongfully terminated you:

Employee contract violation

Employers typically let employees sign a written contract that outlines the duties, responsibilities and benefits of the employment. Your contract should also have a provision that describes the grounds for termination. If your employer attempts to fire you for reasons and in a manner that violates the contract, you may file a claim against them for breaching the contract.


An employer cannot discriminate against an employee in any way, shape or form. The federal law prohibits employers from terminating an employee due to the following reasons:

  • Age (40 or older)
  • Handicap
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion and religious practices
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • National origin
  • Political affiliation

California law goes above and beyond to protect employees. The Golden State also includes the following protected classes:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Military and veteran status

You can file a complaint if you belong to any of these protected classes and feel your employer is firing you because of discrimination. Firing someone because of differences promotes bias and an unsafe working environment.


It is illegal for an employer to get back at an employee for reporting an incident of discrimination or harassment, regardless of the victim’s identity. Similarly, an employer cannot retaliate against employees who participate in investigations or lawsuits involving the employer’s possible illegal activities. You can file a complaint if your employer has taken adverse action against you because you participated in protected activity.

Public policy violation

Employees have the right to take time off work to attend to the death of a loved one or care for a sick family member. You can also take a leave if you are pregnant or have a medical emergency. An employer cannot fire you for caring for your health and loved ones. They also cannot fire you for taking time away from work for jury duty or to vote.

Fair Labor Standards Act violation

Some employers do not want to pay overtime. They might also try to refuse to give an employee’s pay or benefits. Employees should complain when their employer does not give them the wages they rightfully earned. It is wrongful for an employer to fire you for complaining about unpaid wages and overtime concerns.

You have rights as a worker in California. If your employer fired you for these reasons, you should act fast and gather all the documents to help your case.