California has a relatively high cost of living when compared with other states, which means that losing your job in California can prevent a much more serious and immediate hardship. There are situations in which an employer has the right to terminate their workers, and there are also situations in which a company firing an individual is a violation of that individual’s right or employment law.

Situations where an employer violates someone’s rights or the law itself by the firing of an individual are wrongful termination. Wrongful termination claims can lead to legal action by the victim against the company involved.

What constitutes wrongful termination in California?

One of the most basic rights of an employee is the right to be free from retaliation. Whether you need workers’ compensation benefits because you got hurt, reported a manager for sexual harassment or had to act as a whistleblower because the company violated the law, your employer cannot fire you for standing up for yourself or alerting others to illegal activity. Retaliation typically constitutes wrongful termination.

Additionally, your employer cannot fire you because of a protected characteristic, such as your gender, age if you are over 40, religion or medical condition. Your employer also should not terminate you in a way that violates your employment contract. However, if your employment contract does not include a specific duration for your employment agreement, the courts may interpret that as an at-will agreement without a specific term.

Looking over your contract and discussing the situation that led to your termination with someone familiar with California employment law can help you get an idea of what options you have.