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Questions on Termination Laws

An employee may bring a case of wrongful termination against their employer if the termination violates any of the following: one or more terms of the contract; policies outlined in the employee handbook or a statute provision of employment law. Naturally, cases will vary according to the terms of the contract and by jurisdiction. It is worth noting that in cases where there are no contracts between the employer and the employee, courts acknowledge the existence of a de facto contract by virtue of the employment relationship. If proven, a case of wrongful termination can lead to either reinstatement of the dismissed employee or monetary compensation for the wrongful dismissal. Below are similar situations addressed by Legal Experts.

As an African-American woman, I am definitely a victim of discrimination. I need assistance in regaining my job and also seeking restitution for discrimination, pain and suffering, defamation of character, loss of income, and anything else I might be entitled to.

If the employee handbook or any company policy dictates the circumstances under which an employee can be terminated versus an employment “at will” policy, you may have a claim for unlawful termination under breach of contract theory. Also, if you were not given adequate notice of your termination through communication of your unsatisfactory performance or any such reason, you may have a successful unemployment claim.

For a successful discrimination complaint followed by an unlawful termination suit which could involve reinstatement and back pay or front pay, you will have to establish beyond doubt that you were subjected to illegal discrimination which led to your termination.

Finally, what you see as defamatory may not fall within the legal definition of defamation. The defamation of character claim would prevail only if the employer has intentionally made a statement about you they know is false to a third party or a prospective employer that damages your employability or reputation. Any such damage would be covered as part of foreseeable damages in the discrimination case you file.

I was fired from my job in California without explanation for objecting to my boss making jokes about autistic children. I also stopped speaking to him. Do I have a case to recoup lost wages based on illegal discrimination in California?

At-will employment states like California allow employers to terminate employees for any or no reason at all. Such termination is not illegal. However, the federal law prohibits discrimination against employees based on their disabilities. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating or creating a hostile work environment for employees complaining about discrimination, including that based on disabilities.

However, in your particular case, you yourself are not disabled but have apparently been terminated for taking offense at remarks made against a protected class of people. You may contact California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which has been liberal with employment rights and see if they have the discretion to investigate your particular case.

I was forced to resign from my job or face immediate termination. Could my case fall under constructive dismissal/termination definition?

Constructive discharge is akin to an employer terminating an employee. It means that the employee resigned solely because the employer implemented or allowed an extraordinary change that made working conditions intolerable enough to compel any reasonable employee to resign. Such circumstances include and are not restricted to punitive transfer to a dangerous job, hostility, demotion, humiliation, or harassment. If the employer made such changes or allowed them to happen, these situations would establish a case for constructive discharge.

I was given involuntary termination after 13 years of service without any warning. Can I still apply for unemployment?

Unless the employer can show or establish that the involuntary termination was for reasons such as misconduct, violation of company policy, or insubordination, you would certainly have a claim for unemployment benefits. Unsatisfactory performance or lay-offs are generally not grounds for denying unemployment benefits. Once you file a claim, the Department of Labor will likely seek further information from your employer regarding your dismissal.

What happens if I don't sign my termination paper? I just up and left the office when they told me I was fired after 12 years.

At-will states allow for termination without warning. It is not illegal unless there is a contract in place or a company policy that dictates the terms for termination. Without any contract, the employer may terminate you at his/her discretion. However, you may not be terminated for any discriminatory reason as defined by law. In such a case, you may contact the EEOC and file a claim for illegal discrimination.

You may file for unemployment without the termination papers. Refusing to sign on the paper only means that you have rejected their offer of severance. While you may not get a good reference as a result of refusing to sign, you action has no adverse legal implications.

Unlawful termination can include terminating an employee for discriminatory reasons or not following the contract that outlines the termination procedure. It may be useful to ask a Legal Expert for more insight into the laws related to wrongful termination.
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