Wrongful Termination in California

"Employers who value profits over their employees soon lose both."
- James W. Johnston, Esq. -


The subject of wrongful termination is extremely broad and can only be briefly touched upon here. Generally speaking, California law follows the "at-will" employment doctrine. Under this doctrine, an employer generally is free to terminate or demote an at-will employee with or without just cause. However, there are numerous exceptions to this doctrine, many of which are discussed on this website.
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Some examples of wrongful termination include being fired or demoted because of unlawful discrimination, or in retaliation for reporting safety complaints or illegal conduct by the employer. These exceptions permit even an "at-will" employee to bring a legal action against his or her employer for wrongful termination or demotion. The Johnston Law Firm is at the forefront of lawyers in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities representing employees in wrongful termination cases.

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Am I an At-Will Employee?

Absent evidence to the contrary, in California all non-public employees who are not members of a union, and are not employed under a contract for a specific duration of time, are presumed to be at-will employees. As mentioned above, however, there are numerous situations where an employee is permitted to bring a legal claim for wrongful termination or demotion against their employer even though the employee is at-will. If you are an at-will employee who was terminated, but feel you meet one of the exceptions that would allow you to bring a claim against your employer, please feel free to contact our office. Although all of our client intakes are coordinated through our Los Angeles office, attorney Johnston represents clients in many Southern California cities.

What if I Have a Contract for a Specific Time Period?

If you have been working under a contract that requires you to work for your employer for a specific period of time, e.g. a one-year contract, then in most cases you would not be considered to be an at-will employee. In that situation, you ordinarily will have even greater protection from being wrongfully terminated or demoted than an at-will employee.

25 Years Experience

Mr. Johnston has been an attorney since 1986, and as an employment lawyer represents employees not only in Los Angeles, but other cities in Southern California. He is fully qualified to handle your wrongful termination claim. Our client is conveniently located in downtown Los Angeles.

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If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against or have any other employment law claim against your current or former employer, we invite you to contact our law firm, by filling out the form above, or click here to contact us.


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. If have been wrongfully terminated from a job in Los Angeles or another area in Southern California, please feel free to contact Mr. Johnston about your situation.

Union Employees

If you are covered by a union contract, in most cases you will have some protection from being 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.

Selected Wrongful Termination Cases

Walker v. Los Angeles County MTA. (2005) 35 Cal.4th 15. This wrongful termination case involved an employee of the Los Angeles County MTA who alleged that she was terminated from her position in retaliation for her cooperation with an investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General. Her lawsuit alleged causes of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy and a violation of Labor Code section 1102.5. After losing a jury trial, the employee filed a notice of appeal after the trial court denied her motion for a new trial. The appeals court summarily dismissed her appeal on the ground that a trial court ruling on a motion for a new trial is not an appealable order. The California Supreme Court reversed the appeals court decision, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.




The above information is provided as a courtesy of The Johnston Law Firm, and constitutes only a brief summary of some general employment law, discrimination issues and related legal rights under California law. As such it does not constitute legal advice, and you should contact an attorney to discuss any specific employment issue you may have. For further questions, please contact our office on the forms provided.