1. Assuming that there are no documented job skill issues, does my employer have any obligation to let go of a contract employee doing the same job title before they let go of a permanent employee. Note that I am the only female and the only person not former military in my department. In addition, I am over 40 years old.
A: There is no obligation to terminate a contract (legally termed "leased") employee in preference to any other employee -- absent some written promise to the employee as part of the contract of employment.
2. Do I have any grounds for a discrimination case?
A: Unlawful discrimination requires, at a minimum, proof that: (1) the employee is a member of a protected class (race, color, nationality, religion, sex, age, disability, etc.); (2) the employee is qualified for the job position; (3) the employee suffered an adverse employment action from the employer.
Any time that an employee is terminated where the employer claims inadequate performance, and the record suggests otherwise, there is the possibility of unlawful discrimination. However, many employers do not keep performance records with anywhere near the sort of precision that employees might believe, because by doing so, it actually impairs the employer's ability to terminate employees "at will." The point is that when the employer states that your performance is inadequate, it could be unlawful discrimination, but unless and until sufficent evidence is produced to connect the dots between employer actions and employee detriment, there's frequently no easy answer.
The problem for the employee is that without a "smoking gun" (e.g., supervisor flatly offers employee promotion in exchange for sex, and conversation is overheard by another employee), proving employment discrimination can be too expensive for either an employment rights attorney or the government (EEOC; DFEH) to risk the cost of an investigation followed by a potential trial.
This causes many valid cases of unlawful discrmiination to never come to fruition. BotXXXXX XXXXXne, I'm not seeing anything that jumps out and shouts unlawful discrimination -- so, while this doesn't mean that you have no case -- it does mean that the case needs evidentiary support if it's to go anywhere.
3. If I attempt to negotiate a higher severance, is it your opinion that I could be successful in this?
A: Severance is not required. The only reason why employers offer severance is as consideration for a waiver of the employe's right to sue on any issue. Your ability to obtain a greater severance is directly correlated to your proof of unlawful discrimination. Based upon what you have disclosed here, I wouldn't be too hopeful. You have nothing to lose by trying to negotiate, though.
In closing, please understand that I "justanswer" questions “about” the law. I cannot be rsponsible if the law does not favor your unique circumstances. The best that I can do is to explain what the law "is" and what it "is not."
For an employment rights lawyer referral, see this link.
Hope this helps.
And, if you need to contact me again, please put my user id on the title line of your question (“ToCustomerrdquo;), and the system will send me an alert. Thanks!