Wrongful Termination Laws in California

What is Considered Wrongful Termination in California?

California is an at-will state, which means employees can be fired at any time without reason. However, there are still situations where an employee can take legal action against their former employer for wrongful termination. Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employees are protected from being wrongfully fired by their employers. In this blog, we explain wrongful termination laws in the state of California.


Employers in California cant’ legally fire an employee for reasons that are discriminatory. A person's age, race, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or sex cannot be the basis for an employee’s termination.

Implied Contract

An employee can file a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer who fires them after entering into an implied contract. If an employee has an implied contract stating they can’t be fired for at least a year, but their employer fires them sooner, the employee can take legal action.

The following are examples of implied contracts:

  • Promises of job security
  • Any employee handbook
  • Employment policies
  • Job performance evaluations

Violation of Public Policy

Employers cannot fire an employee for reasons that are contrary to public policy. This means an employer can’t fire an employee for not carrying out an illegal request or for filing a works compensation or labor violation claim.


It is illegal for an employer in California to fire a worker for reporting illegal or unethical activities to the appropriate government agency or to a person in a position of authority within the employee's organization. Employers also can’t fire employees for supporting a coworker's claim or reports of illegal or unethical activity within the company.

Although retaliation is often thought of as just a person getting fired, it can actually include being passed over for a promotion or a new training opportunity, as well as being demoted or being denied a raise. Being denied work privileges or facing suspension or other consequences can also be considered a form of employer retaliation.


Employees who report illegal activities within a company, such as violations of state/federal law or noncompliance of safety regulations, are considered whistleblowers. California has laws that protect whistleblowers from employer retaliation, as well as employees who fuse to participate in activities that would violate federal or state statutes. Employers who choose to retaliate against whistleblowers can be forced to pay for lost wages and also might have to reinstate their employees’ jobs and benefits.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects whistleblowers employed by publicly traded companies from the following types of retaliation:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Suspension
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination

Provisions in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act protect employees who report activities that they reasonably believe to be illegal, even if courts later find that no laws were actually broken. Employees who file a claim under Sarbanes-Oxley have to also file a complaint with the Department of Labor within 90 days of being retaliated against by their employer. Failure to file a complaint with the Department of Labor can cause your case to be dismissed.

Wrongfully Terminated? Call a Skilled Employment Lawyer at (888) 796-4010.

Our Hollister employment law attorney can help you uphold your rights and hold your employer accountable for their actions. We can review your case and create a legal strategy that will show how you were wronged by your employer.

Call (888) 796-4010 or contact Polaris Law Group online to schedule your free case consultation today.
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