A well-established private company sometimes has no choice but to let an employee go. Under California at-will employment laws, employers are allowed to terminate an employee’s employment at any time for any legal reason. However, an employee may find reasons to refute the decision to terminate and file a retaliation claim against their employer. By filing a retaliation claim, the employee is stating that the employer terminated their employment or took adverse action against them for illegal reasons. With the help of an experienced employment law attorney, it is important for employers to come up with a defense strategy and solid evidence to show the legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for their actions.
What are illegal reasons for termination?
Employers have the legal right to terminate an employee for various reasons, including employee misconduct, poor performance, insubordination, and excessive tardiness or absences. However, terminating an employee for the following reasons is illegal:
- Discrimination – An employer may not take adverse action against an employee based on their race, religion, age, gender, etc.
- Retaliation – An employer may not terminate an employee for exercising their rights under the law (e.g. reporting safety violations or illegal activity in the workplace, reporting harassment, taking FMLA leave).
- Illegal activity – An employer may not take adverse action against an employee for refusing to engage in illegal activity in the workplace at the request of their supervisor.
Defending against wrongful termination
If you have been accused of wrongful termination, documentation is everything. You will need to show that you had legal reasons for firing the employee in question. Some of the best evidence may include:
- Records of employee’s poor performance (performance reviews, performance improvement plans, written warnings)
- Records of employee’s misconduct or criminal activity in the workplace (warnings, disciplinary action taken)
- Company policies and procedures and proof that the policies were equally enforced amongst all employees
- Proof that the terminated employee was replaced with someone in the same protected class
As an employer, it can be difficult to handle lawsuits from terminated employees. However, an employer defense attorney can defend your company against these claims and help ensure that you maintain your reputation in the business community.