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Can retaliation be the basis for a wrongful termination claim?

No one in California enters a new job thinking about what could happen if they are fired. Most people go into a new job full of optimism. However, unless an employee is afforded certain protections by an employment contract, the only thing that stands between an employee’s livelihood and an employer acting illegally is state and federal employment laws. When employees in California believe they have been wrongfully terminated from employment, they may need to turn to these laws to determine their options.

For example, can retaliation be the basis for a wrongful termination claim? Well, as with all legal situations, the initial answer is “it depends.” So, what does such a claim depend on? In essence, the employee must claim that the employer terminated their employment relationship based on the employee engaging in fully lawful conduct, but perhaps conduct that the employer didn’t like.

For instance, some employees may be fired due to reporting a sexual harassment claim. To report such conduct in the workplace is perfectly legal, but could lead to an uncomfortable situation for the employer. The employer may attempt to “silence” the problem by simply firing the employee who makes the report, often under some other pretext. This type of situation is textbook retaliation.

The difficulty with wrongful termination claims is obtaining the evidence needed to prove the case in court. In many cases, the employer is the one who holds all the records pertaining to the situation which the employee is claiming as the basis of the retaliation. Any employee in California who believes they may have a valid wrongful termination claim would likely benefit from getting more information about their own unique situation.


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