If you have been terminated or fired, the checklist below can help you identify reasons for which your discharge might have been unlawful. A wrongful termination is any firing that is done in violation of: (i) federal, state, or local laws; (ii) the terms of an employment agreement; or (iii) for reasons that are against public policy.
Federal law protects employees from being fired or otherwise discriminated against on the basis of age, disability, gender, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, or sex. Several states and localities also prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may have a valid claim for wrongful termination on the basis of discrimination:
- Is there any direct evidence that you were terminated because of discriminatory reasons?
- Is there circumstantial evidence of discriminatory practices?
- Are similar employees treated differently on the basis of age, gender, race or any of the other protected categories (as described above)?
- Did an employer, supervisor, or superior make comments or take actions that would indicate that he or she may have a bias against certain groups?
- Did an employer, supervisor, or superior make any comments to indicate that he or she may prefer one group of employees over another?
Employers cannot terminate or otherwise punish an employee for participating in certain protected practices. Such protected practices include, but are not limited to, reporting illegal behavior – such as discrimination or safety violations – within the company or to outside enforcement agencies. Protected practices also include participating in any investigation into potential illegal behavior, such as cooperating with investigators that are looking into potential violations.
The following questions will help you determine whether you have a valid claim for wrongful termination on the basis of retaliation:
- Before being fired, did you report potential violations in the company to a supervisor, colleagues, your human resources department, or an enforcement agency?
- If so, did your employer or supervisors react negatively or engage in any punishing behavior?
- Before being fired, did you participate in an investigation of the company’s behavior or practices?
- Were you ever discouraged from or warned against such participation?
- Were you ever discouraged from or punished for exercising your legal rights, for example, by taking covered medical leave?
Breach of Contract
Firing a worker in violation of an employment agreement can also constitute wrongful termination. While some workers have written contracts, even those without one may have an implied contract, created through their employer’s words or actions or even through a detailed employee handbook.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following, then you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination due to a breach of your employment contract:
- Were you working under a written contract? If so, did it establish permissible reasons for termination or a termination procedure?
- Did your employer have a detailed employee handbook? Did it cover termination, discipline, advancement, etc.?
- Did your employer, supervisor, or superior make any verbal promises, such as saying your job was “guaranteed” or ensuring you “tenure” at work?
- Did your employer, supervisor, or superior make any statements indicating that you could only be fired for specific reasons?
Call for a free consultation
If you answered yes to any of the questions on this wrongful termination checklist, you may have a valid claim. Contact The California Employment Legal Group today to discuss your circumstances and to investigate what options may be available to you.