Being fired can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you believe the circumstances didn’t align. While California is an at-will employment state, employers cannot fire individuals based on certain protected characteristics or situations. This is known as wrongful termination and is a violation of state employment law. Because of this, if you were fired based on false accusations made against you, you may have the right to file a wrongful termination claim here in California.

Here’s everything a California employee should know about wrongful termination and their rights if they are fired under false pretenses.

What Is Wrongful Termination in California?

When educating yourself about wrongful termination, it’s important to note the state’s other employment laws as well. California is known as an “at-will” employment state, meaning that both employers and employees have the right to end the employment when they wish. An employer does not have to justify the termination of the employee, and the employee doesn’t have to justify quitting. However, both parties must adhere to the state employment laws and company guidelines that are in place. This means if an employee has a contract in place stating they were going to stay for a certain period of time at the company, they must follow the contract and are not allowed to leave their position until it ends.

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee based on reasons that violate state employment law. The most common examples of wrongful termination in California include:

  • Employer retaliation. An employer fires an employee as a form of retaliation because they, for example, filed a workers’ compensation claim against them or requested extended time off.
  • Discrimination. An employer fires an employee as an act of workplace discrimination, for example, because of their race, gender, age, etc.
  • Breach of contract. An employer terminates an employee who was contracted to stay at their position for a certain period of time.
  • Pregnancy discrimination. An employer fires an employee after finding out they are pregnant.
  • False accusations or rumors. An employer fires an employee based on no real substantial evidence and instead on office gossip or false accusations.

Can I Sue My Employer If They Fire Me for False Accusations?

Because being terminated based on false accusations is a form of wrongful termination in California, an employee has the right to file a claim against their employer if they believe they were fired based on rumors or false pretenses. Even if an employer does receive information that they believe is substantial to justify their decision, if information later comes up proving their evidence to be untrue, the termination is no longer legally valid and is then considered to be wrongful.

What to Do After Wrongful Termination Occurs

If you believe you were terminated in a way that violates state employment laws, you can follow these general steps to file a claim against your employer.

  1. Find a Qualified Wrongful Termination Lawyer
    When it comes to claims involving employment law, it’s always ideal to hire an experienced employment attorney who can help you through your case. Your attorney can work with you to determine if you have substantial reason to file a claim and can then assist you through the process of doing so.
  2. Gather Evidence and Retrieve Your Employment File
    After being fired, one of the first things you should do is retrieve a copy of your file from your employer. This file should have some sort of reasoning for the termination of your employment, but it can also detail other important evidence for your claim. Proving that your employer illegally fired you can be difficult, so it’s important to try to gather as much evidence as you can to build a strong case.
  3. Request Investigation and File Wrongful Termination Claim
    Once you have talked with your attorney and determined the violations that occurred, you most likely will need to request an employer investigation from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. They will examine your claim and then alert you if you’re able to continue with the filing process. If you’re cleared, you can then formally file a complaint for wrongful termination against your employer.

FAQs About Firing Under False Accusations in California

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Termination Claim in California?

An individual has two to three years to file a claim for wrongful termination from the date it occurred. The exact amount of time you have will depend on what the reasoning for the wrongful termination was. However, you want to file your claim as soon as you determine your employer’s wrongful behavior.

What Is Constructive Dismissal?

When an employer makes the working conditions of their business so unpleasant, uncomfortable, or unaccommodating that an employee has no choice but to quit, this is known as constructive dismissal or discharge. Many employers do this by creating a hostile work environment that forces an employee to quit so that they do not have to fire them and pay parting wages. Constructive dismissal is not a voluntary form of quitting and is an employment law violation.

Can You Be Compensated for Wrongful Termination in California?

If you file a formal complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and they accept it, you will either be able to settle your claim outside of court through negotiation or settle it through litigation in court. In most cases, your settlement is a form of compensation.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Wrongful Termination Claim?

While you’re not legally required to have an attorney, it’s in your interest to hire one to make sure that you receive the most ideal settlement possible. If your claim is accepted, you’ll need help negotiating a settlement. If it is disputed, you’ll need to be represented throughout the litigation process.

California Wrongful Termination Lawyers

No employee should be fired over false accusations. At Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers, we have assisted countless clients through wrongful termination cases and are prepared to help you with your claim, too. For more information about our firm or to schedule a consultation with one of our team members, contact us today.

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About The Author

Nicholas J. Ferraro

Nicholas J. Ferraro is a skilled labor and employment lawyer and the founder of Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc. Based in San Diego, he focuses on representing employees in class action and collective litigation cases. Education: Mr. Ferraro attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the San Diego Law Review. Experience: Over a decade of legal practice, representing more than 100,000 employees. Court Admissions: Mr. Ferraro represents his clients throughout the State of California and the State of Washington. He is a member of the State Bar of California. Community Involvement: Active member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the San Diego County Bar Association.