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When you can and cannot be fired for workplace talk

Should you be afraid of what you say in the California workplace? If you experience or witness problems that you believe are harmful to one or more workers or you even believe illegality is being conducted, you have a right to speak out against those practices and not be fired. But your capacity to complain about what goes on at your job is not limitless. It depends on what you say.

As Chron.com explains, employees are protected under federal law to express concerns about problems in the workplace. These may include:

  • harassment of employees
  • discrimination against employees
  • hazardous working conditions
  • other acts of illegality

So if an employee is explaining these problems to a fellow worker and is fired, the worker would have recourse under federal law to contest the firing as an act of wrongful termination. This can also apply if a worker wants to promote collective activity among the other employees to address problems in the workplace.

Some workers may wonder if they can be fired if they do not address complaints to the correct person in the chain of command. For example, your immediate boss may want to receive complaints from you before you go to human resources. An employee, however, may elect to go to human resources first for various reasons. If the employee is fired afterward, the employee could have a legal case since the firing was still related to legally protected complaints.

However, the protections of law only go so far. Chron.com points out that federal law will protect your right to change the conditions of your workplace for the better, but it may be a different matter when it comes to venting your personal frustrations about your supervisor to a fellow colleague. If your comments are not related to legally recognized activities to improve a workplace, your supervisor could fire you without legal repercussions.

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