If you are covered by a union contract, in most cases you will have some protection from being terminated without good cause. If you are terminated, and you believe there is not sufficient cause for your discharge, you can request your union to file a “grievance” on your behalf against the employer. In deciding whether to file your grievance or to take your case to arbitration, your union is obligated to represent you fairly. However, as long as your union takes reasonable steps to investigate your case, it may legally decide not to file your grievance or go to arbitration if it believes that your case does not have enough merit. If you are covered by a union contract, you cannot take your case to court if it requires only an interpretation of your contract. Wrongful termination cases that can be taken directly to court because they do not involve your contract include most violations of public policy or law, such as discrimination on the basis of race, sex or disability.
Wrongful Termination in California
There is no individual law in California covering wrongful termination. Instead there are a variety of state and federal statutes, as well as state and federal court decisions, that provide some protections (sometimes very limited) to at-will employees, and allow them to pursue “wrongful termination” cases under certain circumstances. Wrongful termination generally means an unfair employment discharge. However, not every unfair employment discharge constitutes wrongful termination.
Examples of wrongful termination that violate state or federal law include the following:
- Dismissal on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or even mistaken perceptions of any of these
- Retaliation for asserting a protected right, such as filing a sexual harassment complaint, taking family or medical leave, or applying for workers’ compensation benefits
- You don’t have a written employment contract, but you are a long-term employee with an implied employment contract. For example, your employer may have told you as long as you do well, you have a future with the company.
- Getting fired for reporting illegal or unethical conduct on the part of a manager or supervisor in private or public employment
In California and other states, employers can hire and fire at will. But they cannot fire people because they stood up for their rights if they were being mistreated because of discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Further, they cannot fire an employee whistleblower who reports fraud, illegal activities or safety violations to the government.
You may have certain rights to any property (personal and/or real) that was acquired during a marriage, but the facts of how the property came into the marriage determine the exact extent of your rights. A consultation with an attorney is necessary to discuss these rights. Contested property in a divorce can make the divorce more expensive. This is one of the most important topics in any divorce where the parties own a home, stocks or securities, have retirement accounts, and/or many motor vehicles. Debts are also community property.