Most workers in California are at-will employees. That means that both the worker and the boss would have the power to end employment at any time. Even if an individual had a job with an employment contract, companies usually write termination clauses into the document to retain a certain level of authority.
There are three basic situations in which a termination could be wrongful under the law:
- Discrimination against a protected class
- Retaliatory termination
- Violation of an explicit or implied contract
FindLaw states that, although many people believe they are the victims of wrongful termination, the law is relatively specific in defining this offense. However, there is some gray area: one might use implied contracts to prove an employer's culpability.
There is one simple reason people tend to be shocked and upset when their employment is ended. Namely, good workers get fired quite often. According to Forbes, dutiful employees might be laid off for any number of arbitrary reasons, including:
- Fearful managers reacting to competition
- Asking difficult questions
- Failing to present false optimism to executives
- Attempting to maintain a work-life balance
Unfortunately, although these reasons might seem a petty and unjust basis for somebody losing a job, they are not always related to a wrongful termination. As stated in the introduction to the Forbes article, meeting goals does not necessarily mean career success. However, it is a fact that some employers go far enough to end up on the wrong side of the law, using termination to discriminate illegally, retaliate against assertive employees or circumvent a valid contract.