Employment Law Blog

California Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy

California employment relationships are generally at-will, meaning either party may terminate the relationship with or without cause at any time and for any reason or no reason at all. However, there are exceptions, and an employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that violate California public policy. What Does It Mean to Violate “Public Policy?” A wrongful termination that violates public policy occurs when an employer terminates an employee for exercising a legal right or obligation that affects the greater public. These cases generally fall into four categories whereby an employee is terminated for: (1) refusing to violate a statute; (2) performing a statutory obligation; (3) exercising a statutory right or privilege; or (4) reporting an alleged violation of a statute of public importance. For example, an employer cannot fire you for taking time off to serve on jury duty or for military service because these are statutory obligations (legal duties). Similarly, you cannot be terminated for refusing to commit fraud at the request of your employer (refusing to break the law), or for filing a wage complaint with the Labor Commissioner (exercising a statutory right). The public policy at issue must involve a matter that affects society at large rather than an interest personal to the employee or employer. It must also be set forth in California or federal law, and the policy must be fundamental, substantial, and well-established. The requirements for what qualifies as a violation of public policy are nuanced, so if you suspect you have been terminated for one of the above reasons, do not hesitate to contact an experienced California employment attorney. Examples of California Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy Wrongful termination in violation of public policy can take many forms. If your employer terminated you for one of below reasons, you might have a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy: Reporting unsafe workplace practices or other OSHA violations. Reporting an employer’s refusal to pay wages on time, or refusal to pay minimum wage or overtime pay. Reporting employer violations of meal or rest break requirements. Engaging in political activities outside of work. Discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, or gender. Reporting or complaints of sexual harassment. Refusing to sign a covenant not to compete. Reporting employer violations of California or federal family or medical leave Refusing to engage in illegal conduct (e.g., fraud, embezzlement, forgery). Refusing to sign an agreement releasing an employer from liability for intentional acts. Retaliation for being a whistleblower (e.g., reporting securities fraud or fraud related to the use of public funds). Discussing wages with other employees. Retaliation for testifying in court as a witness. Keep in mind the alleged policy violation must affect the public-at-large, and an employee has two years from the time of termination to file a wrongful termination claim. Wrongful Termination Remedies In California, to successfully prove wrongful termination in violation of public policy, you must demonstrate: An employment relationship existed, which can include part-time or full-time employees but not independent contractors; The employer terminated the employee; employee resignation or nonrenewal of a contract is generally insufficient unless the employer forced the employee to resign; The employer’s reason for termination violated public policy and was a substantial motivating reason for the termination; and The employee suffered damages as a result of the termination. If an employee is successful in their wrongful termination suit, they may be entitled to compensatory damages (compensate for actual loses like lost wages, benefits, or emotional distress damages); punitive damages (meant to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the harmed party); or attorney fees and costs. If you believe you were fired in violation of public policy, contact us for a free consultation. The California wrongful termination attorneys of Ottinger Law have decades of experience providing personalized, zealous representation on behalf of their clients.

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Employment Law Blog

New York (NY) Wrongful Termination Laws

What NY workers need to know about their rights in cases of illegal retaliatory employment termination NY Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for an illegal reason.   But NY wrongful terminations are rare.   This is because most all New York employees are employees-at-will.   An employee-at-will can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Fairness is not required.   The only way to remove yourself from the employment-at-will category is to have an employment contract or company policy manual that limits your employers’ ability to fire you. NY Wrongful Termination Does Not Cover Unfair Firings Many firings are based on factual disputes. For example, an employee might be fired for being late to work when the employee actually was not late.   The employee who was fired for being late may feel that they were fired wrongfully.   But legally, the firing was not wrongful because companies are allowed to fire employees for any reason at all, even based on a misunderstanding. Being “let go” is never any fun, regardless of the reason.   It is especially painful if the reason was unfair or based on a misunderstanding of the facts. The fact is that it hurts and it is embarrassing, not to mention the stress and worry about finding another job in today’s marketplace.   Unfortunately, as much as you might want to seek revenge by filing a claim or cause of action against your former employer for wrongful termination, you may not have a leg to stand on because of the employment-at-will rule.   Often employees feel that they have been wronged simply because they have been loyal to the company for such a long time that they are entitled to more than just a goodbye. When Does NY Wrongful Termination Occur? NY Wrongful termination exists when the termination is unlawful.   This occurs if the termination breached an existing employment agreement or violated one of the laws that protect New York employees.   Employees have the right to be protected from the breach of any oral or written contractual agreement between the employer and employee, as well as protection against any illegal acts by the employer. For example, if the termination was not in accordance with the outlined procedures in the employment contract; if there was some form of employment discrimination involved regarding age, pregnancy, sex, disability, race, etc. or if there was some form of retaliation for reporting other acts of discrimination or violations of federal securities laws, there could be a claim or cause of action for NY wrongful termination. Every case is different and each is determined on the specific details and circumstances of the termination of the employer-employee relationship. Remedies for NY Wrongful Termination In NY wrongful termination cases, employees can recover any lost income that resulted from the illegal firing.   Other remedies such as punitive damages, compensation for emotional distress, legal fees and costs can also be recovered under certain laws.   For example, an employee fired due to a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act is entitled to recover double damages (twice the amount lost pay) as well as legal fees and costs.   Likewise, the New York City Human Rights Law provides employees with the right to collect unlimited punitive damages for any form of employment discrimination or sexual harassment. If you need help with a NY wrongful termination case, please contact The Ottinger Firm for a free consultation at 347-305-5427.

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