Wrongful Termination Lawyer

Fight Back

Have you been fired from your job, leaving you wondering what to do next? Being fired from a job can be embarrassing and stressful, especially when you depend on your paycheck to survive. While an employer boss may let go an employee for any lawful reasons, the firing cannot be for the wrong reasons. The “wrong reasons” are facts driven and sometime not so clear.

Can my employer terminate (or fire) me at any time?

In California, an employment relationship may be ended by either the employer or the employee, at any time, for any [lawful] reason, or for no reason at all. This is called “at-will employment.”
An employment relationship is not “at will” if the employee proves that the parties, by words or conduct, agreed that the employee would be discharged only for good cause.

“Labor Code section 2922 has been recognized as creating a presumption. The statute creates a presumption of at-will employment which may be overcome ‘by evidence that despite the absence of a specified term, the parties agreed that the employer’s power to terminate would be limited in some way, e.g., by a requirement that termination be based only on “good cause. [1]

What is a good cause for termination?

‘Good cause’ or ‘just cause’ for termination connotes a fair and honest cause or reason, regulated by the good faith of the employer. The term is relative. Whether good cause exists is dependent upon the particular circumstances of each case. In deciding whether good cause exists, there must be a balance between the employer’s interest in operating its business efficiently and profitably and the employee’s interest in continued employment. Care must be exercised so as not to interfere with the employer’s legitimate exercise of managerial discretion. While the scope of such discretion is substantial, it is not unrestricted. Good cause is not properly found where the asserted reasons for discharge are ‘trivial, capricious, unrelated to business needs or goals, or pretextual.’ Where there is a contract to terminate only for good cause, the employer has no right to terminate for an arbitrary or unreasonable decision.[2]

How do I know if I was wrongfully terminated (or fired) from my job?

Hypothetically, Jane was fired from her job at Big Company; Jane claims that Big Company breached their employment contract. To establish this claim, Jane must prove all of the following:
1. That Jane and Big Company entered into an employment relationship. [An employment contract or a
provision in an employment contract may be written or oral;
2. That Big Company promised, by words or conduct, to discharge Jane only for good cause;
3. That Jane substantially performed her job duties;
4. That Big Company discharged Jane without good cause; and
5. That Jane was harmed by the discharge.

What if I was forced to resign because the work was intolerable?

[T]he standard by which a constructive discharge is determined is an objective one-the question is ‘whether a reasonable person faced with the allegedly intolerable employer actions or conditions of employment would have no reasonable alternative except to quit. In order to establish a constructive discharge, an employee must plead and prove, by the usual preponderance of the evidence standard, that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee’s resignation that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign. For purposes of this standard, the requisite knowledge or intent must exist on the part of either the employer or those persons who effectively represent the employer, i.e., its officers, directors, managing agents, or supervisory employees.[3]

Can my employer retaliate against me by demoting me?

No. Constructive discharge occurs when the employer’s conduct effectively forces an employee to resign. Although the employee may say, ‘I quit,’ the employment relationship is actually severed involuntarily by the employer’s acts, against the employee’s will. As a result, a constructive discharge is legally regarded as a firing rather than a resignation.[4]In order to amount to constructive discharge, adverse working conditions must be unusually ‘aggravated’ or amount to a ‘continuous pattern’ before the situation will be deemed intolerable. In general, ‘[s]ingle, trivial, or isolated acts of [misconduct] are insufficient’ to support a constructive discharge claim. Moreover, a poor performance rating or a demotion, even when accompanied by reduction in pay, does not by itself trigger a constructive discharge.[5]

How severe does a demotion or treatment must be to consider constructive discharge?

Whether conditions were so intolerable as to justify a reasonable employee’s decision to resign is normally a question of fact. In some circumstances, a single intolerable incident, such as a crime of violence against an employee by an employer, or an employer’s ultimatum that an employee commit a crime, may constitute a constructive discharge. Such misconduct potentially could be found ‘aggravated. [T]he standard by which a constructive discharge is determined is an objective one-the question is ‘whether a reasonable person faced with the allegedly intolerable employer actions or conditions of employment would have no reasonable alternative except to quit.[6]

How do I prove I was constructively discharged (fired) from my job?

Hypothetically, [Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] breached their
employment contract by forcing [name of plaintiff] to resign. To establish
this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:
1. That Jane and Big Company entered into an employment relationship.
2. That Big Company promised, by words or conduct, to discharge Jane only for good cause;
3. That Jane substantially performed her job duties;
4. That Big Company intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions to exist that were so intolerable that a reasonable person in Jane’s position would have had no reasonable alternative except to resign;
5. That Jane resigned because of the intolerable conditions; and
6. That Jane was harmed by the loss of employment.
To be intolerable, the adverse working conditions must be unusually or repeatedly offensive to a reasonable person in Jane’s position.

How much money will I get if I was wrongfully or constructively terminated (fired) from my job?

The general rule is that the measure of recovery by a wrongfully discharged employee is the amount of salary or [total compensation package]agreed upon for the period of service, less the amount which the employer affirmatively proves the employee has earned or with reasonable effort might have earned from other employment. [7]

Free Consultation
If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, I can help you. I can investigate your case to determine the cause of your termination and protect your rights. Please call me for a free consultation today at (619) 550-1321



Legal Reference

[1]Haycock v. Hughes Aircraft Co. (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1473, 1488.

[2]Walker v. Blue Cross of California (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 985, 994.

[3]Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1238.

[4]Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1238.

[5]Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1238.

[6]Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1238.

[7]Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. (1970) 3 Cal.3d 176, 181

Call Brad Nakase

Free Consultation

2221 CAMINO DEL RIO S. #300, SAN DIEGO, CA 92108

COPYRIGHT © 2019 NAKASE LAW FIRM – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.