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When Can You Sue an Employer for Wrongful Termination?

Termination from any job is frustrating and can throw your life into turmoil. But suing an employer requires proving they broke the law. On top of that, many states have “at-will” employment laws that permit companies to fire workers whenever they feel it’s necessary.

Employers can fire you for a breach of employment contract, poor job performance, or violation of employee policy. Lateness, absences, and misconduct are other legitimate reasons for termination, as are criminal activities including theft or violence. As long as there’s a legal reason to fire you, at-will employment applies. However, if you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated, you may be able to file a lawsuit for the following reasons:

The Reason Was Discriminatory

Federal law prohibits an employer from firing a worker based on their gender, race, color, religion, national origin, pregnancy, or a disability. It also protects individuals over age 40, although younger workers receive additional protections in certain states. You can file a discrimination lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act, but you must first contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a charge. The EEOC can help if you were sexually harassed at work, forced to resign, experienced a hostile work environment, or were fired for whistleblowing.

Changes in Contract Terms

Employment contracts often include expectations an employer has in terms of employee performance. An employee can be legally fired if their performance fails to meet a specified threshold. Reviewing the contract and circumstances of dismissal can determine whether there was a contract violation. Changing the terms without your consent is illegal, including reducing your pay, changing your title or work hours, or otherwise altering the terms of your employment. Seek legal advice quickly, as waiting too long can hurt your chances of having a successful case.

Insufficient Notice

No matter what the employer’s reason for dismissing you, they must provide you with a sufficient notice of termination. If not, then it is considered a wrongful dismissal. Contact an employment attorney about whether you might have a wrongful termination case.


If you were fired after engaging in a protected activity such as whistleblowing, you can sue your employer. Other protected activities include complaining about discrimination/sexual harassment, filing for workers’ compensation benefits after a work-related injury, or forming a union. An employer that fires in retaliation can be sued for wrongful termination.

Being Forced to Resign

Forced resignation is a form of wrongful termination. Unless you resign voluntarily, you’re entitled to severance pay. You can sue your employer if they refuse to pay or will not do so voluntarily.

Dismissal Due to Medical History

Medical data are more accessible than many people realize. Some wrongful termination lawsuits have involved employers that researched medical histories and fired workers for having or being at risk of developing certain conditions, to avoid paying health benefits later. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2008 to prevent this. You can therefore sue for wrongful termination if your medical history was a factor in your dismissal.

Contact Lawyers for Justice

Our wrongful termination lawyers provide the legal advice and representation needed to prove your case and hold your employer accountable. We’ve taken action against California’s largest employers. If you believe you’ve been terminated for the wrong reason, you are not alone. Far too many clients have dealt with wrongful dismissal and other adverse actions. We can get you compensated for the hardship you’ve faced due to an employer’s illegal behavior. To request your free consultation, call us at 818-647-9323.

Attorney advertisement by Edwin Aiwazian of Lawyers For Justice, PC, headquartered at 410 Arden Avenue, Glendale, CA 91203