In Part One of this article, we explored two ways that a firing in California could result in a legal claim for wrongful termination: firing in breach of an employment contract and firing based on unlawful discrimination. The following are three more examples of situations in which a business owner may find themselves in legal trouble following the termination of an employee.
Retaliation – The law protects employees from any adverse employment action that is in retaliation for an action that is protected by law. Adverse employment actions including demotion, unfavorable transfers, discipline and termination. For this reason, if an employee believes that you fired them in retaliation, you could be the subject of a wrongful termination claim.
Protected activities involved in retaliation cases often including complaining of unlawful discrimination or harassment, other illegal actions by managers, health and safety violations in the workplace, and other whistleblowing activities. These cases can be extremely costly, as evidenced by one employee who called an employee hotline to report possible fraud by his supervisors. The employee was terminated and years later awarded $3.4 million by a federal jury.
Non-participation in an illegal acitivity – Employees may also not legally be fired for refusing to engage in any type of unlawful activities requested by their employer. Unlawful activities can range from assisting to cover up the illegal acts of others, making false entries in financial record books, and much more. Currently under fire for wrongful termination in this type of situation is the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which runs major casino resorts such as the Venetian and the Palazzo, as well as resorts in Pennsylvania and throughout Asia. The former CEO of Las Vegas Sands has filed a pending lawsuit claiming that he was fired from his top position because he refused to participate in illegal acts regarding operations in Macau, specifically gathering information intended to blackmail Macau officials. If Mr. Jacobs proves his claim, he will likely be awarded a substantial sum of money.
Taking legal time off – If an employee takes time off that they are legally entitled to under the law, they may not lawfully be terminated for taking that time. This type of case may involve the following:
- Taking time under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) for a medical condition (including pregnancy and childbirth) or to care for a family member with a medical condition.
- Taking time from work for military deployment, protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Time to vote
- Time to serve jury duty
Wrongful termination cases are, of course, not limited to the above examples. Any business owner that has been accused of any type of wrongful termination should immediately consult with an attorney who has specific experience in this type of employment case. Wrongful termination lawsuits can be worth a lot of money and can seriously hurt the reputation of your business. California business lawyer Nate Kelly works to help businesses facing any type of legal matter or question, so call today at 415-336-3001 or 310-228-6215 to discuss how we can help you.