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Grounds for Wrongful Termination

Public Policy Grounds for Wrongful Termination

It is important to understand the basic and most common relationship employees have with their respective employers. Absent a specific employment contract, you are what is known as an at-will employee. This in essence means you can be terminated at any time even if you did nothing wrong. However, you may have some recourse if you contact an Orange County employment attorney.

What grounds does an at-will employee have for filing a wrongful termination case?
Traditionally, as an at-will employee, you could recover damages only if the reason your employer terminated you violated a constitutional right or an express statute. This is known as a public policy exception.

What are some examples of public policy grounds for wrongful termination?
If the real reason you were fired is any of the following, you may have rights:

  1. You were exercising a constitutional right;
  2. You refused to violate a law;
  3. You reported your employer for violating a law;
  4. You fulfilled a civic responsibility, such as jury duty.

In recent years, laws and courts have expanded what may be considered public policy grounds for termination.

How have my rights as a terminated employee expanded?
Employees have successfully been awarded damages not only if their direct employer was in violation of public policy, but additionally if there was a contractual business relationship with another entity and that entity was in violation. This may significantly expand who may claim a wrongful termination.

Are there benefits to claiming wrongful termination on public policy grounds?
A general wrongful termination claim allows recovery for only actual damages, such as lost wages and benefits. If based on public policy grounds, the plaintiff can collect full tort damages such as pain and suffering and punitive damages.

Your damages may be significant and it may be a complex matter to determine if you in fact have a case. A consultation with an experienced Orange County employment attorney will help you begin the process.