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How to know if your termination was legal

It is easy to take it personally when you lose your job. In fact, it is common for workers to become depressed or anxious after a termination because they begin to wonder if there is something wrong with them. However, California, like many other states, has at-will employment, which means your employer can let you go at any time without giving you a reason.

There are limits to this law, though. Your employer may have a reason to fire you, but if that reason is unlawful, you can take action to protect your rights and seek justice for your wrongful termination.

Unlawful reasons for termination

Of course, discrimination is one reason why an employer may wrongfully fire you. It may seem the marketplace has outgrown discriminating against people for their race, religion, gender or other protected statuses, but unfortunately, wrongful termination based on these factors is still common. Members of the LGBT community may lose their jobs as well as suffer harassment in the workplace. And despite laws against pregnancy discrimination, women must worry about termination if they become pregnant.

Besides discriminatory reasons, other unlawful bases for firing you from your job include the following or others:

  • Your genetic or family history makes you a high risk for certain diseases that may cost your employer in health care benefits.
  • You filed a claim for workers' compensation.
  • You reported your employer for illegal activity within the company, and he or she fired you in retaliation.

If you recently met with colleagues to discuss legitimate concerns about the conditions of the workplace, your employer may have learned about it. Out of fear that you would cause unrest among the staff, your employer may have fired you. While there is justification in terminating an employee who is stirring discontent with complaining and negativity, if you have a legitimate reason to question your employer's actions, your employer may be out of line to fire you.

Your legal rights

One clear example of wrongful termination is when an employer fires you in violation of the terms of your employment contract. It is important that you know and understand the details of your contract so you can protect your rights.

However, be prepared for the fact that your employer understands the contract well and probably has documentation in your file that supports its decision to let you go. If your performance evaluations suddenly have low scores or your boss singles you out for disciplinary referrals, you may suspect the company is preparing to terminate you and is inserting documentation in your file. Because of this, you would do well to consult an attorney who has experience in these matters.

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