While an employer can terminate a worker for many different reasons, workers do have some protections against wrongful termination. For instance, a worker in California cannot be terminated because he or she reported a potentially illegal workplace activity. This is true whether the activity was reported to a state or federal agency or a representative of the company. It is important to point out that the employee must legitimately believe that a violation occurred.
Employees also cannot be terminated for participating in an investigation or lawsuit involving potentially illegal activity. To qualify as a wrongful termination, a worker must show that he or she was taking part in a protected activity. Furthermore, the person must have been punished for his or her legal actions. Examples of a punishment may include being demoted or losing benefits in addition to being terminated.
Workers also cannot generally be terminated for leaving work under the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Older workers are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It is possible that an employer will attempt to create a valid reason as to why a person was terminated. An employer must be able to show that an employee was not doing his or her job well, showed up to work late or was otherwise terminated for something other than participating in a protected activity.
Those who were terminated for reporting harassment or workplace safety violations may be victims of wrongful dismissal by their employers. Statements made by managers or a poor performance review shortly before being terminated may be evidence that a person was wrongfully terminated. An attorney may be able to use this and other forms of evidence to help a person obtain compensation or other relief.