Was your layoff illegal?


Getting laid off from your job can mean financial trouble, depression for you, and a lot of stress. There may be some cases in which a company laying you off is actually illegal. For the most part, a company can lay you off whenever their budget demands that they cut labor. However, you may want to review the circumstances under which you were fired and the laws regarding wrongful termination to see if you have a lawsuit.

What is the difference between getting laid off and getting fired?

When an employee is laid off, it is due to the fault of the company. When an employee is fired, the termination is considered to be the employee’s fault. The difference between getting laid off and getting fired could affect your ability to get jobs in the future. Depending on how long you worked for the company, it may affect your ability to get unemployment benefits. 

Can I sue in an at-will state?

California is an at-will state when it comes to employment. This means that an employer does not have to have a reason to fire you. However, you may not be fired or laid off for reasons of retaliation or discrimination.  If they need to lay people off, they are not allowed to push you to the top of the list for performing a civic duty such as voting or sitting on a jury.  

What qualifies as discrimination?

Although you may have been treated differently than your fellow employees, in order to claim discrimination you must fall into a protected class. You may file a claim with the California Department of Equal Housing and Employment or the EEOC. If other workers in your office got to retain their jobs and you were laid off and you fit into a protected class, you may want to file a claim. Protected classes include persons over 40, transgender people, and the disabled. An employer may not discriminate against you for creed, religion, or gender identity.

Did you have a contract?

If you had a contract with a company specifying that you would work there for a certain period of time, you may be able to sue them if they laid you off before the contract end date. You and your attorney should go over the contract to see if it has a clause detailing a buy out in the event of a layoff.

Did the company breach good faith and fair dealing?

If a company laid you off and kept other people on because you were about to qualify for health insurance or you were owed a big bonus, they may have breached good faith and fair dealing and it may be considered wrongful termination. If you think you may be getting laid off, it is important to collect documentation of how long you have worked there and what bonuses and benefits you are owed.

The WARN Act

The WARN Act is a law that shields employees from the shock of an unexpected lay off. If you work for a company with over 50 full-time employees and you are to be laid off or lose over 50% of your hours for a period of over six months, a company must give you 60 days of advanced notice. If a company does not comply with the act, you may want to discuss it with a wrongful termination attorney.

Getting laid off is very stressful. Fortunately, there are a few laws that can help you from feeling ambushed and protect you from unscrupulous employers.

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