He may have looked the part, spoken well in the interview, and had the right experience. In fact, he seemed like a great fit for your company. It’s only after a few months that you realize why he was available in the first place. Employees who clearly engage in wrongful conduct such as sexual harassment, violation of company policies, or constant tardiness are often easier to terminate than employees who aren’t the right fit for the corporate environment. San Jose businesses may fear wrongful termination litigation after firing an employee for causing dissent among the staff or failing to embody corporate values. California, like most states, is an “at will” employment state. This means that absent a contract, you have the right to terminate an employee at any time and for any reason that doesn’t violate state or federal law.
Avoiding Wrongful Termination Lawsuits in California – 2 exceptions to the rule
1. Although California is an “at will” employment state, there are two notable exceptions to this rule. First, an employee with an employment contract may be protected from a termination “without cause.” This means that there must be a justifiable reason for her termination as defined in the employment contract. The employee may also be entitled to certain notice and disciplinary warnings before termination. We can review any employment contracts at issue to ensure a termination complies with these provisions.
2. The second exception to an “at will” termination is if it violates state or federal law. Common illegal reasons to terminate an employee in California include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Discrimination – You may not fire someone on the basis of his or her ethnicity, ancestry, religion, disability, gender, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or military service. Most wrongful termination lawsuits are filed when an employee falling into one of these protected categories is terminated “without cause.”
• Retaliation – You may not terminate an employee as retaliation for reporting allegedly illegal activities to a supervisor or government agency. For example, you may not terminate an employee for truthfully reporting a co-worker who sexually harassed her.
• Using Medical Leave – California protects employees from being fired for using FMLA leave, sick leave, serious medical condition leave, maternity leave, or child bonding leave. The leave has to be legally authorized, however. An employee who takes substantial unprotected leave may be legally terminated under certain circumstances.
Every potential termination should be reviewed by an experienced California employment attorney at Structure Law Group, LLP to ascertain whether the termination is legal and protect you from expensive litigation.
Consult with a California Employment Attorney to Avoid Wrongful Termination Lawsuits
The experienced California employment attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP can help you through the termination process. Our employment attorneys can analyze the facts surrounding an anticipated termination to ensure you’re in compliance with federal and state labor laws. We can prepare any necessary paperwork and help structure the termination process to reduce the likelihood of employee wrongful termination litigation. Whether you’re preparing to terminate an employee, drafting employment contracts or policies, or simply want to prepare for future terminations, we’re here for your every business need in California. To schedule an employment law consultation, contact the California business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP today at 408-441-7500 or online.