California Employment Law
California Employment Law Questions Answered by Legal Experts
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First, let me say that I am terribly sorry to hear that you are in this situation. It is a shame when an employer makes a decision without legitimacy, especially when that decision is quite frankly wrong. However, that does not necessarily mean that the decision is unlawful. California is an at will employment state. This means that your employer is allowed to terminate your employment for any reason that does not violate your civil rights or is in breach of contract. Thus, if you are a union employee, or if you have an employment contract that says you must be fired for cause, then you might have legal recourse against them for terminating you. Additionally, if you believe the reason that you were terminated could be related to a protected category, such as your age (over 40), gender, race, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, national origin, creed, or disability, then the termination would be deemed wrongful and you would have a cause of action. So if you can point to a protected category and state that this is the real reason you were fired then showing that you were fired for selling to other companies while the rest of the office was not fired for doing the same thing, then you would have a cause of action. In that instance, you should talk with a few employment attorneys in your area.
If you decide to hire an attorney a great resource is www.Martindale.com. This is a nationwide directory that is useful in finding highly qualified legal specialists in various fields of law. The lawyers in Martindale are not selected because they paid to be included, but rather because they have been rated by other attorneys as qualified experts in their field. Consider consulting with two or three different attorneys willing to take your case prior to selecting the one you feel most comfortable with.
Other types of termination, even if wrong, are still legal. As a consequence, the only potential remaining option that you can pursue would be to file for unemployment benefits and claim, quite rightly, that you were terminated "without cause" and seek unemployment benefits. You would not be able to seek damages, but you would be able to contest the termination as being ultimately invalid.
You also brought up the concept of a non compete. Non competes in California are deemed to be unenforceable. Business and profession code section 16600 states:
"Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void."
The only argument that they would have here is a claim for duty of loyalty wherein they argue that you were actively trying to sabotage the company by working for others while working for your company.
But again, a non compete would be deemed to be void if you wanted to work for someone else after the fact.
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Have a wonderful rest of your day.
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