Wrongful Termination

In California, employees are presumed to be employed “at will,” meaning either the employer or employee may severe the employment relationship at any time. However, an employer may not fire an employee if the discharge violates fundamental public policy. Such claims are called “Tameny” actions, named after a famous California Supreme Court case Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield.

Tameny claims exist when an employee attempts to enforce an employment right, such as overtime pay or make a sexual harassment complaint, and the employer retaliates against the employee for doing so.

To succeed in a Tameny action, the employee must prove:
the existence of an employer-employee relationship;
termination or other adverse employment action;
the termination was in violation of an existing public policy;
adverse employment action against that employee in retaliation for those acts; and
the employee suffered damages.

There are also specific statutory protections against retaliating against whistle blowers. For example, if an employee tells a law enforcement agency, like the Environmental Protection Agency or the Securities and Exchange Commission, that he or she reasonably believes the employer is breaking the law, then that employee is protected from retaliation.