California’s employment laws are designed to protect workers, but what about independent contractors? Can they sue for wrongful dismissal in violation of public policy? In this blog post, we’ll explore the legal landscape in California and discuss the nuances surrounding the rights of independent contractors in cases of alleged wrongful termination (

Understanding Independent Contractors in California

Independent contractors are distinct from employees in California. While employees typically enjoy various labor law protections, including the right to minimum wage and overtime compensation, independent contractors have a different legal status.

Wrongful Dismissal in Violation of Public Policy

In California, there is a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, which allows employees to sue for wrongful termination in those cases where the termination violates a public policy. This exception is rooted in the idea that certain dismissals are so contrary to public policy that they should be legally actionable.

No Application to Independent Contractors

Caselaw provides that this public policy exception is applicable to employees but not independent contractors.

The case of Sistare-Meyer v. Young Men’s Christian Assn., (1997) 58 Cal. App. 4th 10 is instructive. The facts in that case were as follows: In 1991, Sistare Meyer entered into a contract with respondent Young Men’s Christian Association of Metropolitan Los Angeles to provide a program of teaching, dancing, and tumbling at its Crenshaw branch. The contract was designated as an independent contractor agreement and provided that the contract could be terminated upon one week’s notice. In March 1993, the Crenshaw branch notified the appellant that it was terminating the contract. On May 25, 1994, Sistare Meyer filed a complaint against respondents and several other parties, asserting a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, and other claims. The court granted the defendants motion in limine to preclude Sistare Meyer from presenting any evidence concerning her sole remaining claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The motion contended that, as a matter of law, appellant could not state such a claim because she had been an independent contractor. The trial court granted this motion. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that “under Tameny and its progeny, independent contractors cannot assert Tameny claims.”

Contractor Misclassification

In some cases, employers may misclassify workers as independent contractors when they should be treated as employees. If an independent contractor can successfully challenge this misclassification, they may gain access to certain employment protections, including wrongful termination claims.

Other Claims

While wrongful dismissal claims based on public policy may not be available to independent contractors, they may still have recourse for other things; for example, unlawful sexual harassment. An employment relationship is not a pre-requisite for all employment claims.

Seeking Legal Representation

While the public policy exception to wrongful termination claims is directly applicable to employees, independent contractors in California should be aware of their legal rights and options. Seeking legal guidance is crucial in navigating this complex terrain and ensuring that individual rights are protected.

Independent contractors facing termination or dismissal should seek legal advice to assess their specific situation. An attorney can help determine whether there are grounds for legal action based on the specific facts of the case.

We are employment lawyers in Southern California who have helped hundreds of clients achieve great results. If you are involved in a dispute involving this area of employment law, our experienced employment lawyers stand ready to help. Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C. provides a complimentary consultation and is proud of our many positive testimonials.