In most states in the U.S., terminating an employee without any clear and formal basis is illegal. Companies, organizations and even government agencies that will be found guilty of such actions may be held liable in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the discharged employee. This is to recover damages from the employer including loss of wages and “fringe” benefits.
On the other hand, in an “at will” employment system such as in California, proving a wrongful termination claim is definitely difficult and complicated. “At will” employer-employee relationship scheme indicates that any employer may terminate an employee from his job position even without any reason except those that are specified under the law. This gives the freedom for most companies to decide whether to lengthen the services of an employee or terminate him without the risk being charged of wrongful termination.
“At Will” Employment Exemptions
Although “at will” employment scheme is not prohibited in California, terminating an employee on the following bases are considered violations of the law and can be subjected in a legal action:
• Ethnic group, gender, marital status, national origin, disability and religious and/or political affiliation
• Retaliation for a whistle blowing feat or testifying against the company
• Overtime pay demands including lunch and rest breaks
• Lodging requests
• Seeking for pregnancy, family and/or medical leave
• Refusal to work in a hazardous workplace
• Refusal to sign an illegitimate non-compete agreement
In addition, an “at will” employment scheme may be nullified in the presence of a contract that specifies the terms and conditions of employment. These agreements include stipulations such as job description, work hours, compensation and benefits, dispute resolution, tenure of employment, etc. If duly signed by both the employer and the employee, this will prevent the employers from terminating the employee without any grounds stated in the contract.
If in case an employer has terminated an employee due to any of the abovementioned bases, the discharged worker may file the corresponding lawsuit against the employer or the company. Yet, in seeking for justice, it is always advisable to have consultations with a wrongful termination attorney especially if an employee does not have sufficient understanding of the Labor Law provisions.
Illegally terminated employees must understand that the filing a case require basic knowledge about legal procedures. This explains the importance of hiring a credible legal counsel for assistance and representation. Attorneys who are experts in the field of Labor Law will definitely improve a wrongful termination claim’s winning potential.
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