Many people think an employer must have a valid reason for firing them. That’s not true in California. Generally, an employer doesn’t need any reason to fire someone. The employer can be arbitrary and unprofessional in firing an employee. They don’t even have to treat everyone the same.
The main exceptions are contract and public policy violations. This means that the employer can’t fire the employee in violation of a contract, or of an established law or regulation. Some examples include protections for whistleblowers, jury service, and complaints about unpaid wages, among others.
Employers can discriminate against employees whom they don’t like. They can treat one employee differently than others. They can be mean and rude, and they can treat their employees badly.
What they can’t do is treat employees differently based on a protected characteristic. These include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation. These protected characteristics are listed in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and in Title VII. There are other protected characteristics as well.
No one has the right to discriminate against you or harass you at work based on any of these characteristics. The most common type is sexual harassment, which can be verbal or physical.
More and more, employers claim their former employees have stolen trade secret information or are soliciting their customers. Employees are getting sued for violating covenants-not-to-compete and anti-solicitation agreements that their employers made them sign.
Covenants-not-to-compete and anti-solicitation agreements are generally illegal in California. These complex cases require an experienced attorney to litigate them. The Law Office of Craig T. Byrnes won the leading case in this field, called Thompson v. Impaxx, 113 Cal.App.4th 1425.
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), you cannot be denied housing based on a protected characteristic (see above under Discrimination/Harassment). You also cannot be discriminated against in restaurants, stores, or other types of businesses. The Unruh Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) also require businesses that are otherwise open to the public to provide access to the disabled.
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