Ask a California employment lawyer:
I didn’t get written up. How come I’m fired?
It could happen at any time. You are sitting around minding your own business, plugging away at your job, when the boss calls you into her office with a representative from human resources. They tell you that you’re no longer employed. Perhaps they don’t say anything other than the dreaded, “We are going in a new direction.” Perhaps they tell you that you are being fired because of a recent incident or something that happened in the past.
At any rate, you are suddenly, without warning, without any prior reprimands, unemployed. Your first reaction is likely shock. Then, you feel the anxiety of paying bills and trying to find another job. Your final reaction is rage at the injustice of it all. But do you have rights?
Being an “at-will” employee doesn’t mean you can be fired for any reason.
Your termination may be illegal.
Technically, your employer does not need any reason to fire you, unless you are in a union or you signed a contract that states otherwise. Other than that, you serve at the pleasure of your employer, because of a concept called “at-will employment.” An “at-will” employee can be fired at any time, for any reason....except for illegal reasons, which are spelled out below.
We successfully argued that the company had created an “implied contract.” That meant he should not have been fired.
Being "at-will" is why your employer can fire you, even if you’ve never received any write-ups. However, there are several ways to attack the idea of being "at-will."
But we don’t have to just let your boss can get away with illegal behavior!
Your employer may have said something to create an employment contract.
Sometimes, your employer will make statements indicating that you will be fired only for a good reason. This happened in a recent case of mine. One of my clients had a boss who told him that as long as he kept increasing sales in the region, his job would be secure for many years to come. When my client was fired for being a whistleblower, we very successfully argued that the company had created an “implied contract.” That meant he should not have been fired -- and we argued that he didn’t have write-ups, which made his case even stronger.
If your employer stated in writing that your employment is considered “at-will” and that nobody can ever say anything to contradict the written words, it is extremely difficult for you to pursue an implied contract claim. However, you still have rights!
You have rights as an at-will employee.
Your employer may consider at-will employment to be a talisman against all wrongful termination actions. Your boss may boldly declare in correspondences, depositions, and trial that you were “at-will” and could be fired for any reason. But this is not true!
You can never be fired for reasons that are illegal. Most of my clients are at-will employees, but I have been extremely successful in proving that they were fired for illegal reasons.
You can never be fired for reasons that are illegal.
You can’t be fired because of your age, race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or marital status. Don’t let your boss get away with retaliation! If your boss bullied you for complaints you made about illegal activity, about discrimination or harassment, health and safety violations in the workplace, or for taking medical or military leave, your termination may be wrongful.
If you don’t know whether you were fired for an illegal reason or not, contact us. We can discuss your case and analyze your situation.
Fight for justice! Know your rights!
If your company has a policy of firing people only after a number of write-ups, and you were fired immediately, call us so that we can discuss whether or not the reason your boss gave you for your termination is the “true” reason or if it was just a smokescreen for an illegal one.
Please make an appointment for a free consultation in our Newport Beach office. You can contact us by email or phone. We want to help.