How Your Employer’s Actions May Create an Implied Contract and Help Your California Wrongful Termination Case

Barnes & NobleCalifornia is one of many states that recognizes “at-will” employment. At-will employment generally means that either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time for any reason or no reason (subject to limitations like those barring illegal discrimination). If you think you’ve been improperly fired, though, you should contact a California employment attorney right away. Even if your employment began as an at-will arrangement, the specific facts surrounding your employment experience may mean that your employer’s actions created an implied contract, and that may help you in your wrongful termination action, as was the case for one Northern California book store manager.

Christine was a manager at a major book store chain and had been since 1989. From 2002 until her termination in 2010, she managed the store at West Valley College outside San Jose. After the employer fired her abruptly and unexpectedly in June 2010, she filed a lawsuit over the termination. In her action, she asserted a claim for wrongful termination.

The employer argued, successfully in the trial court, that it was not liable because the manager was an “at-will” employee and that the termination was done for legitimate business reasons. Specifically, among other things, the college president had contacted Christine’s supervisor in the spring of 2010 and requested that the book store replace her. The trial court sided with the employer because, in its opinion, the employee had failed to rebut the employer’s arguments related to its legitimate business reasons for firing her.

The manager was able to achieve a partial success on appeal and revive her case. The appeals court concluded that the manager’s arguments and evidence in support of her assertion that she was wrongfully terminated were strong enough to defeat summary judgment.

There are multiple ways that a termination can be wrongful in California. One way an employer can engage in wrongful termination is if it violates public policy. For example, a termination based upon race, color, national origin, or ancestry is a violation of public policy.

Another way that a termination can be wrongful is if it breaches the employment contract. That was the basis that the appeals court found persuasive in Christine’s case. She had proof that her employer had a clear practice of refraining from terminating employees without first going through the company’s progressive discipline process. Christine had evidence that her employer almost never fired anyone without first putting them through the progressive discipline process. In Christine’s situation, the employer fired her without engaging in any progressive discipline. In the appeals court’s opinion, that was enough to raise a potential issue that Christine and the employer had an implied contract that gave her greater protection than an ordinary at-will employee, and the book seller violated that implied contract when it abruptly fired her with no warning or prior discipline.

If you think that your employer has terminated you wrongfully in violation of the law, you may be entitled to compensation for that wrongful termination. Contact the Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our team is dedicated to helping workers who’ve been wrongfully terminated or harmed by other illegal conduct in the workplace. For more information regarding how this office can help you, contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Pharmacy Tech Gets New Opportunity to Pursue Emotional Distress Damages in Wrongful Termination Case, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, May 12, 2017

California Appeals Court Revives Producer’s Wrongful Termination Case Against CNN, Oakland Personal Injury Attorney Blog, Jan. 12, 2017

Photo credit: BrokenSphere at Wikimedia Commons.