You can sue for wrongful termination if you are in a union, because the Fair Employment and Housing Act is an exception to most collective bargaining agreements. You don’t even have to go through the union processes, you just have to file a complaint with the Fair Employment and Housing Agency. They will give you a right-to-sue letter and you can then sue your employer. The process, which the employer would prefer, through the collective bargaining agreement, is mandatory only with regard to wage and hour causes of action, not for discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Sometimes, depending upon what the cause of action is, you have to go through a grievance process first. Also, you can do both at the same time: File a grievance and a lawsuit. You just have to keep in mind that the grievance does not extend the statute of limitation, which is the time within which you must file your lawsuit.
Does my employer need to give a reason for firing me?
Your employer does not have to give you a reason for firing you. However, if you call an employment attorney and you tell them you don’t know why you were fired, they will need to ask you a lot of questions to see whether you’ve recently engaged in protected activity or whether you’ve recently taken a protected medical leave. Often, an attorney is able to figure out from the circumstances leading up to your termination whether there is any discrimination or retaliation involved, but it’s always better if you can say what you think is the real reason for your termination. For example, employers will never tell you that your fired because you are pregnant. The employer will say it is because you were late to work, or because your performance is poor. It’s our job to prove that it was not because of the false reason the employer gave, but without some idea from you what the real reason is, we would not know what to sue for. So when your employer gives a vague reason, like it’s just not working out, or no reason at all, our job as employment attorneys becomes much harder when you cannot tell us what you think the real reason was.
If I was sick and had to take a leave of absence, can I be fired?
If your leave of absence is a protected leave of absence, you don’t even have to prove that the employer intended to fire you for taking the leave of absence. For larger employers with over 50 employees, your leave of absence may be protected under the California Family Rights Act or the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If so, it’s very difficult for the employer to defend such an action. However, if it was just a sick leave, it is sometimes not illegal to fire employees for missing work, particularly if the employer has a written attendance policy that allows for only a certain number of absences. Absences with a doctor’s note should be excused and not counted under those attendance policies, but the number of available sick days is limited. On the other hand, if your sickness was due to a physical disability such as diabetes, or a more serious condition such as heart disease or cancer, you might have a viable lawsuit for disability discrimination, so long as the employer was made aware of the basis for your sickness. For example, instead of telling your employer you have to miss work because you are sick, you can volunteer that you are suffering the effects of morning sickness due to your recent pregnancy. This lets the employer know you are pregnant, and then any subsequent termination could be pregnancy discrimination. Also, it’s best to inform the employer by email from your own personal email account. That way, it becomes very difficult for the employer to deny knowledge of the underlying basis for your absence.
I refused my boss’ advances and was fired. Is this illegal?
A situation where you are fired for refusing your boss’s advances is called quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is absolutely illegal. When it is committed by a supervisor, it is immediately enough to file a lawsuit, while when committed by a coworker, you have to complain in writing first. Either way, it is important that you immediately complain in writing by email from your personal email address to Human Resources, or to your boss’s supervisor, and then that you call a lawyer. Sexual harassment doesn’t have to be as obvious as refusing advances. It could be more subtle, like inappropriate sexual conversation in the workplace. Even if not by a supervisor, as long as you complain (in writing) and nothing is done to prevent it from happening again, you have a viable claim for sexual harassment and possibly for hostile work environment, based on inappropriate sexual activity in the workplace.
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For more information on Wrongful Termination Lawsuits in California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (562) 630-1500 today.