What to Do if You’ve Been Terminated Unjustly in California 


Being terminated from a job is a deeply unsettling experience, particularly when the termination feels unjust. In California, where employment laws are designed to protect workers from unfair treatment, understanding your rights and the steps to take can make a significant difference. This state’s robust legal framework offers recourse for employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated, whether due to discrimination, retaliation, or violations of public policy. Navigating this complex landscape requires both awareness and action to ensure that your rights are upheld. 

If you find yourself facing an unjust termination, it’s crucial to know that you are not powerless. From gathering evidence and consulting with legal experts to filing complaints with the appropriate agencies, there are clear steps you can take to challenge your dismissal. This article aims to guide you through the essential actions you need to consider, offering practical advice and insights to help you effectively address the situation. By understanding the legal protections available to you in California, you can better advocate for yourself and seek the justice you deserve. 

Understand California’s Employment Laws 

California is an “at-will” employment state, which means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as it is not illegal. However, there are several exceptions to this rule: 

Discrimination: It is illegal to terminate an employee based on race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, or any other protected characteristic under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). 

Retaliation: An employer cannot terminate an employee in retaliation for engaging in protected activities, such as filing a complaint about workplace harassment or discrimination, or for whistleblowing. 

Public Policy Violations: An employer cannot fire an employee for reasons that violate public policy, such as refusing to engage in illegal activities. 

Gather Documentation 

If you believe your termination was unjust, start by collecting any documentation that supports your case. This may include: 

Employment contract: If you have an employment contract, review it to understand the terms of your employment and the conditions under which you can be terminated. 

Performance reviews: Gather your performance reviews, emails, and any other documentation that demonstrates your work performance and contradicts the reasons given for your termination. 

Correspondence: Keep copies of any emails, text messages, or other communications with your employer that may provide evidence of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. 

Witnesses: Identify any colleagues who may have witnessed discriminatory behavior or who can support your claims. 

Consult an Employment Attorney 

Employment laws can be complex, and proving an unjust termination can be challenging. Consulting with an experienced employment attorney can provide valuable guidance. Taling to a law firm that is familiar with local laws and regulations can be beneficial. For example, if you’re experiencing unjust termination in the Inland Empire region of California, Riverside, CA assistance might benefit you. An attorney can help you: 

Evaluate your case: Determine if you have a valid claim for wrongful termination based on the evidence you have gathered. 

Navigate legal procedures: Assist you in filing a complaint with the appropriate government agency or in taking legal action against your employer. 

Negotiate a settlement: Work to negotiate a settlement or severance package with your former employer, if appropriate. 

File a Complaint 

If you decide to pursue legal action, you may need to file a complaint with a government agency. In California, you have a few options: 

Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH): If your termination involved discrimination or retaliation, you can file a complaint with the DFEH. You must file your complaint within one year of the date of the alleged unlawful act. 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): For federal claims of discrimination, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. You must file your complaint within 300 days of the discriminatory act. 

Labor Commissioner’s Office: If your termination involved a violation of wage and hour laws, you can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. 

Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution 

In some cases, you may be able to resolve your dispute through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation or arbitration. ADR can be a faster and less costly way to settle disputes compared to going to court. 

Take Care of Yourself 

Dealing with an unjust termination can be stressful and emotionally draining. It is important to take care of your mental and physical well-being during this time. Seek support from friends, family, or a professional counselor to help you navigate this challenging period. 


Facing an unjust termination in California is undoubtedly challenging, but you have a range of options to address the situation. By understanding your rights, gathering necessary documentation, consulting with an employment attorney, and potentially filing complaints with relevant government agencies, you can take concrete steps toward seeking justice. Alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration can also provide effective ways to resolve disputes without the need for prolonged litigation. 

Remember, the emotional and psychological toll of an unjust termination can be significant, so it’s important to take care of your well-being throughout this process. Seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors can help you manage the stress and uncertainty. By staying informed and proactive, you can navigate this difficult period more effectively and work towards a resolution that upholds your rights and dignity. 

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