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Wrongful Termination: Identifying the Next Step When My Employer Breaches My Employment Contract

employment termination.jpgWhen employees and employers enter into an employment relationship, California contract law will govern that relationship, regardless if the relationship is oral, written, express or implied. The employment relationship usually defines the terms and boundaries of the agreement between the employee and employer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you or your employer may have certain rights to terminate the employment relationship. If your employer terminates the contract outside of those rights, your employer will have to face the consequences for breaching your employment contract.

However, most employment contracts in California are considered at-will, which means either party, employer or employee, can terminate the employment relationship. But, if your employer gave you an employee handbook or employment handbook at the time you began working for the employer, that handbook may create an enforceable contract against the employer if it makes any promises in regards to health care benefits or grounds for dismissal.

Grounds for Termination of Employment Relationship

Most employment contracts, with or without a manual, will delineate specific causes or scenarios when an employer will terminate an employee. If such a procedure is outlined, the employer is required to follow that procedure. The employer cannot pick and choose which policies in the handbook to enforce. If the employer fails to follow the procedures outlined in the employee handbook when terminating the employment relationship, the employer will have breached the employment agreement.

When evaluated under the guise of contract law, once an employment agreement is reached between both parties, they are bound to the terms of that agreement. It is very important for you to keep copies of any employment contracts or employment handbooks you receive, so you can identify all the terms of the employment relationship and determine if the actions of your employer were proper under the agreement. If you do not have a copy of your employment contract, you should ask your employer for another copy, as your employer is required by law to provide you with one.

Common Terms in Employment Contracts or Handbooks

When reviewing your employment contract or handbook, you should look for certain language that will inform you of the type of relationship you have with your employer.

  • First, as stated earlier, under California law, employment, in most circumstances, is at-will, which means your employer can fire you for any reason (so long as it is non-discriminatory, retaliatory or interfering with certain medical rights) and you can leave for any reason; and
  • In addition, some contracts or handbooks may include an arbitration provision, requiring you to submit disputes to an arbitrator and preventing you from seeking redress in court. You may or may not be on the hook for some of the arbitration fees, the arbitration may take place in another state or the arbitrator may even be biased towards your employer for the purposes of repeat business. Carefully review these clauses in employment contracts or handbooks so you are aware of what you are getting into.

Consult an Attorney

If your employer had an outlined procedure for termination and failed to abide by it when wrongfully terminating your employment, you should contact an experienced San Jose employment law attorney who will protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

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