When an employee in the state of California abruptly or unexpectedly loses their job, there are likely many emotions and questions that come up as a result. Can I be fired? Was the termination wrongful? How do I find another job? Individuals of California have many rights after being fired or laid off and this blog will cover what some of those rights are and how an employee can ensure they are upheld.
The first question that must be answered in order to gauge what rights an employee has after being fired is whether they have an employment contract. If an individual does not have an employment contract, it basically means that it is an at-will employment situation and they can be fired for pretty much any reason as long as it's not illegal.
However, if there is an employment contract, that contract will likely lay out the reasons for which an employee can be fired. If the employee is fired for a reason that is not included within that contract, then the employer may be in breach of that contract and the employee may have a right to dispute the firing or sue for wrongful termination.
These employment contracts are most often in writing. However, if their employer promised the employee certain things verbally there may have been the creation of an oral contract. If this oral contract was violated then there still may be a right to sue the employer. The most common oral promises that are made to an employee include promises that they won't be fired except for a certain list of specific reasons, promises that the employee will have a secure and long career with their employer and a promise that the employment will last for a certain specific term of time.
Although an employee may be hopeful if their employer verbally promised them any of these things, it is important to note that the existence of these verbal contracts is difficult to prove. In these situations it is often a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney who is well-versed in this area of law and understands the steps that need to be taken to prove that there indeed was an oral contract.
Employees always have the right to speak with an attorney, no matter what the situation and circumstances surrounding the layoff or firing. It is simply important to understand that an attorney may or may not have good news for the plaintiff, depending upon whether the termination was truly a wrongful discharge and therefore illegal.
Source: Findlaw, "Your Rights when Losing or Leaving a Job," accessed on August 11, 2014