California is an “at-will” employment state. California’s Labor Code provides that an employment relationship is presumed to be employment “at-will.” “This means, at least in theory, that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. There are exceptions to the at-will rule created by statute, the courts or public policy,” explains the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
Meanwhile, you’re still entitled to unemployment benefits if your employer fired you. There are exceptions, though, which an employer may try to draw upon to prevent you from receiving unemployment benefits. If you feel you were wrongfully terminated and are having difficulty getting unemployment benefits or wish to discuss your legal options, contact a labor attorney at Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP to review your case.
Unjustified Reasons for Termination
First, it’s important to understand that it’s not illegal for a boss to be rude or inconsiderate. Employers can fire you for any reason or for no reason, just as you can quit your job for any reason or for no reason.
There are exceptions, however. In short, the following reasons are not justifiable causes for termination in the state of California.
- You were fired for reasons based on discrimination laws. You cannot be fired for your race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, among other factors.
- You were fired for participating in union activities.
- You were fired for refusing to do something illegal.
- Your termination was in violation of your employment contract. (For example, if your contract specifies that your employment period will last a certain number of years, and your employer violates those terms, it may be wrongful termination.)
- You were fired as retaliation for whistleblowing.
- You were fired for taking pregnancy leave.
- You were fired because you reported sexual harassment at work.
Forced to Quit: Constructive Wrongful Termination & Unemployment Benefits
Another type of wrongful termination situation that sometimes arises is when an employee isn’t technically fired, but the employer makes the working conditions so intolerable that the employee has no choice but to leave. This is referred to a constructive wrongful termination.
Such a scenario can present problems when pursuing unemployment benefits. Employees who qualify for unemployment benefits are unemployed through no fault of their own. If they quit, they “choose” to be unemployed and therefore are not eligible for benefits.
California law protects employees whose employer essentially forces them to resign, though. If you are treated so severely or your working conditions are so poor that any reasonable person would not be able to continue working in such conditions, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits.
If you’re in this situation, keep proof that you utilized whatever reporting mechanisms were available and that you earnestly sought a resolution prior to resigning. If you did so and working conditions stayed the same or worsened, work with an attorney to prove that you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Hiden, Rott, & Oertle Stand Up for Workers’ Rights
If you’ve been wrongfully terminated and are having difficulty recovering unemployment benefits, seek legal counsel so that you can exercise your rights. In California, consider Hiden, Rott, & Oertle as your choice labor and employment legal advisers.
Our attorneys are skilled and determined and are dedicated to helping employees who’ve been wronged. When we take on a case, we provide the highest level of representation at an affordable rate. Call our office today at 619-296-5884 to set up a free legal consultation.