As we have mentioned before on our Los Angeles and Long Beach employment law blog, employees can be fired for no reason or almost any reason in California since most employment contracts are considered to be at-will. However, there are exceptions to at-will rules and employees who are fired for no reason or any reason may still be able to pursue wrongful termination claims against their employers.
In fact, a California doctor who was suddenly fired seven years ago without receiving an explanation for his termination recently won his wrongful termination lawsuit he had filed against his former employer. After deliberating for nearly three days, a jury awarded the doctor $3.3 million in damages and lost wages.
According to the lawsuit, the doctor was hired by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide medical care and to perform surgeries on women inmates at a facility in Chowchilla. In 1995, another local prison opened for women and the doctor began to perform more surgical services for women inmates. After 15 years of working for the state prisons department, the doctor was suddenly fired without receiving any notice ahead of time.
The man was never told why he was fired and he filed a lawsuit claiming that his termination was illegal and that the state prisons department had violated his employment contract by firing him. The doctor also claimed that he could not have been fired over any disciplinary issues since he never had a complaint filed against him in the workplace. Last week, a jury sided with the doctor and concluded that the man was wrongfully terminated by his former employer. The decision was unanimous.
An employee may be entitled to recover lost wages and damages when an employer's decision to fire an employee violates an employment contract or when the employer terminates an employee in order to retaliate against the worker. California employees may also pursue wrongful termination claims when they believe that they were fired as a result of discrimination in the workplace, even when their employment is considered to be at-will.
Source: The Fresno Bee, "Madera doctor wins $3.3 million for wrongful termination," Pablo Lopez, Nov. 14, 2012