For most folks getting fired from a job is a devastating experience. Once the initial shock wears off, and the dust settles the terminated employee often tries to figure out what just happened. It is not uncommon for folks to spend hours recounting their steps, recalling and analyzing events, and assessing their employer’s handling of the situation.

While there are countless reasons why employers fire employees, and many ways in which they do it, one thing seems to be universally true: The person getting fired never feels that the employer is “right.” Let’s be real – people losing their job don’t think to themselves “Yup! I totally deserved to get fired!” Many feel that the employer’s reason for the termination is not “right.” For example, they might feel that it was only some misunderstanding. Others feel that the way in which they were fired isn’t “right.” For example, they might feel that they should have at least been given a warning. Everyone who gets fired feels like what happened to them isn’t “right.” But does this mean that the termination was “wrongful”? The short answer is “maybe.”

While “wrongful termination” is a commonly used phrase, it is also a legal term of art which carries a special legal meaning. Not every termination that isn’t “right” is necessarily a “wrongful termination” within the meaning of the law. In a legal sense a wrongful termination is a termination which violates a fundamental public policy. In order to prevail on such a claim, the employee must generally prove four things: (1) that he/she was employed by the defendant employer, (2) that he/she was discharged from his/her job, (3) that a violation of public policy was a substantial motivating reason for the discharge, and (4) that the discharge caused the employee harm.

The absolute best way for a terminated employee to figure out whether their termination was “wrongful” not just morally, but also legally, is to consult an experienced employment attorney. Almost four decades have passed since the California Supreme Court came down with its landmark decision in the case of Tameny v. Atl. Richfield Co., (1980) 27 Cal. 3d 167, where it recognized the claim for “wrongful termination” for the first time. During this time, the law has developed greatly, and there are hundreds and hundreds of court cases that talk about which termination is or is not “wrongful” in a legal sense. The best way to figure out whether or not your termination was “wrongful” is to seek counsel from an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about this area of the law.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is not legal advice. The Akopyan Law Firm does not provide legal advice unless and until it is formally retained, and an attorney client contract is signed. Each case is unique. The laws may or may not apply to your particular situation. This should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions may have laws and regulations that differ substantially from one another. The Akopyan Law Firm does not provide legal services, or practice law outside of the State of California. You should always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction regarding any specific legal issue.