A wrongful termination claim may be brought when an employer fires an employee for refusing to violate a statute, for performing a statutory right or obligation, or for reporting an alleged violation of a statute. (Gantt v. Sentry Ins. (1992) 1 C4th 1083, 1091; Gould v. Maryland Sound Indus., Inc. (1995) 31 CA4th 1137 [employee has claim for tortious discharge when terminated in retaliation for reporting to management violation of overtime wage laws].)
A complaint for wrongful termination typically includes allegations that: (1) the employer has taken an action that violates public policy, such as termination for refusal to engage in illegal activity; and (2) the plaintiff has suffered resulting damages. (Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 C3d 167.) Because of the Tameny case’s importance, lawyers sometimes refer to wrongful termination cases as “Tameny” actions.
The statutes that most clearly support a wrongful termination claim are those that expressly prohibit termination of employment or retaliation against employees. Some examples of such statutes include the following:
- Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Govt Code §§ 12900–12996);
- Business and Professions Code § 2056 (terminating or penalizing doctor for advocating medically appropriate health care)
- Labor Code § 6310(a) (making complaints about worker health and safety)
- Labor Code §§ 1101–1102 (protecting political activity;
- Labor Code § 230 (protecting employee jury duty, appearance as witness, or efforts to obtain relief as victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking); and
- Labor Code § 1102.5 (whistleblower statute).
However, there are many statutes that do not specifically refer to termination or retaliation that courts have used to support a claim for wrongful termination. (See e.g., Gould, 31 CA4th at 1137 [employee has claim for tortious discharge when terminated in retaliation for reporting to management violation of overtime wage laws].) This area of the law is in constant flux and it is best to consult with an attorney to determine if a wrongful termination claim is viable.
Lebe Law helps employees determine if they have a viable wrongful termination claim against their former employer and, if so, aggressively seeks redress for the illegal termination.
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