If you are a long term employee with a stellar performance record it might come as a shock if all of the sudden you were being written-up for trivial offenses. Maybe the write-ups were for things that never got you written-up before or maybe they were for things that weren't even true. You might suspect that your employer is laying the groundwork for your termination and wonder if there is anything that you can do.
Often times when an employee has been terminated, he or she feels as though the termination is wrongful. They may have been treated unfairly or given a reason for their termination that they know to be untrue. Whether or not a termination is wrongful from a legal standpoint, however, involves a different type of analysis.
When an employer directs an employee to engage in illegal activity it puts the employee in an incredibly difficult situation. On one hand, the employee wants to uphold the law, is morally and ethically opposed to what the employer is asking, and naturally would fear the legal consequences of his action. But an equally compelling factor might be the employee's need for the job, the people who depend on him or her to provide a paycheck, and the difficulty of finding gainful employment in this economy. It can seem like a no-win situation.
In most industries, the expertise acquired through time makes an employee better at his job. This value sometimes gets passed along to the employee in the form of higher pay. Simultaneously, an employer might fear that an older workforce may require greater health related expenditures. Untoward employers then, frustrated at the prospect of having to pay quality workers quality wages, do their best to push older workers out the door in favor of less experienced but cheaper workers. Often times, they are able to do so without running afoul of the law. Other times, like in the example of T.J. Simers and the Los Angeles Times, they are not so fortunate.
Just because your employer has given a false reason for your termination does not necessarily mean that you have a case for wrongful termination. The key is whether or not the reason given by the employer is merely an excuse, or pretext, for an illegally motivated termination.
One of the first questions people have, after they learn that they have a potential wrongful termination case, is 'how much is my claim worth?' While every case is different, there are some general principles that can be applied to determine potential value.
When I began practicing employment law, I kept asking myself the same questions:
Numerous federal and state statutes protect equal opportunity in the workplace. The analysis applicable under most of these laws derives from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) generally follows this federal law, but features some slight variations that are often advantageous to plaintiffs.
Workplace discrimination can occur in numerous forms. Federal and state laws not only prohibit an employer from taking adverse action against an employee due to that employee's protected characteristics (such as race, religion, national origin, or disability status), they also forbid employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of the protected characteristics of those with whom they closely associate.
The concept of at-will employment can often seem unfair. Many workers who feel they have been fired unjustly hope to take legal action against their former employers, but are disappointed to discover that they do not have sufficient grounds to bring viable lawsuits because the reasons for their terminations were not among those ordinarily proscribed by law. The idea that an at-will termination is non-actionable is all the more disheartening for an employee who moved a great distance to occupy his or her job position.