When an employee is at-will, the employment contract is for a period, and in most circumstances the employer can terminate the contract whenever it wants to.
However, under certain circumstances, employees are protected from arbitrary terminations. For example, if the employer 1) breaches a contract that sets forth a specific time period for the employment; 2) breaches the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; 3) violates public policy; or 4) violates a statute designed to protect certain classes of individuals, the employee may have a valid claim for wrongful termination and be entitled to recover damages.
Wrongful termination in California
Termination in Breach of an Employment Contract
Employment contracts can be written, oral or implied by the circumstances of the employment. Such contracts may create an exception to the general rule that an employee can be terminated at will. Examples of such contracts are those that guarantee employment for a set period of time, or that require the employer to take certain steps or disciplinary measures prior to termination.
Termination in Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
The California Supreme Court has provided that all employment contracts contain an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. That covenant provides that neither the employer nor the employee may engage in conduct that denies the other benefit of the contract. For example, if an employer offers a job to an employee who moves from one state to another to take that job, but then fails to let the employee work or receive the full benefits of that job, there may be a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
Termination in Violation of Public Policy
A termination in violation of public policy occurs when an employer takes actions that are harmful to the public or the good of the public. The policy must affect a fundamental public interest and be grounded in a statute. Some examples include:
- Reporting unsafe working conditions;
- Reporting wage and hour violations;
- Discussing wages with a co-worker;
- Discrimination and harassment claims;
- Missing work to attend jury duty;
- Taking time off to visit a school at the request of a child’s teacher;
- Participating in activities at a child’s school;
- Caring for a sick family member; or
- Attending alcohol or drug rehab.
Wrongful Termination Lawyer in Oakland
If you feel as though you may have a claim for wrongful termination, please feel free to contact our offices today. We have many years of experience dealing with wrongful termination claims and fight vigorously on behalf of our clients to get them what they deserve. Please contact us for a free, confidential initial intake.