California is an at-will employment state, which allows employers to fire employees at any time, with our without a reason. However, there are certain exceptions to this general rule. One of these exceptions is that companies cannot fire employees for engaging in certain protected conduct.
Protected Conduct in the Workplace includes:
- Making complaints about sexual harassment at work
- Reporting employee discrimination in the workplace
- Making complaints about unpaid wages, or other labor code violations
- Refusing to participate in illegal activity
- Taking time off of work to serve in the armed forces
- Attempting to take a medical leave
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability
An employee who has been fired in retaliation for engaged in any of the above protected activities may have a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Such lawsuits would generally include a demand for missed wages, emotional distress, as well as punitive damages.