Can job applicants sue for wrongful termination? The short answer is no, but a job applicant may be able to sue for other legal violations.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination in violation of public policy is a tort claim which is most commonly referred to simply as “wrongful termination.” The claim was recognized and discussed by the California Supreme Court in the seminal case of Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (1980) 27 Cal.3d 167. It is, therefore, also sometimes referred to as a “Tameny” action.

Wrongful termination in violation of public policy is the common-law exception to the general rule of at-will employment. In order to establish a wrongful termination in violation of public policy, a plaintiff must show that the employer violated a policy that is (a) enumerated in a constitutional, statutory, or regulatory provision of state or federal law, (b) “public” in the sense that it “inures to the benefit of the public” (rather than an individual interest), (c) well established at the time of the discharge, and (d) substantial and fundamental. Green v. Ralee Engineering Co. (1998) 19 Cal.4th 66, 79

Can A Job Applicant File a Tameny Claim for Wrongful Termination?

Courts have explained that a Tameny action for wrongful discharge can only be asserted against an employer. Miklosy v. Regents of University of California (2008) 44 Cal.4th 876, 900. Thus, there can be no Tameny cause of action without the prior existence of an employment relationship between the parties. Williams v. Sacramento River Cats Baseball Club, LLC (2019) 40 Cal.App.5th 280, 288. A wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim simply cannot be maintained by a job applicant.

Can a Job Applicant Sue a Prospective Employer for Other Legal Violations?

Yes! There are state and federal antidiscrimination statutes that provide protections to job applicants. For example, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects “applicants for employment” from unlawful employment practices. Similarly, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act also provides protections to “applicants.”

Get A Free Consultation from A Wrongful Termination Lawyer

If a job applicant feels that his or her rights may have been violated, the most expedient way for them to determine if they have a case is to contact a wrongful termination lawyer for a complimentary case evaluation. Employees working in Southern California ( can contact Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. to talk to a skilled attorney that practices employment law. Our case results and testimonials speak to our expertise.