- Can my employer just fire me?
- My boss is a jerk, isn't that harassment?
- Am I entitled to be accommodated for my disability?
- I told my boss off and now she demoted me. Isn't that retaliation?
- Can my boss fire me while I'm on disability or medical leave?
For most California employees, the answer is yes, with some exceptions. However, if you have a contract for a specific term or are part of a union, then you employer is bound by that contract or the collective bargaining agreement and can only fire you for cause or because of a layoff. If you are a state or federal employee, you may have additional rights. If you are part of a large lay-off then the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) law might provide that the employer either has to give you advance notice or severance pay. However, if you are not in one of those categories, then your employer is free to fire you for any reason, a stupid or silly reason, or no reason at all; as long as the reason isn’t based on a protected class such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
Illegal harassment must occur because of a protected classification. Protected classes in California include: race (including hairstyles associated with race), color, national origin, ancestry, physical and mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions), sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity and expression), age (40 and older), religious creed (including religious dress), military and veteran status, and political activities or affiliations. If your boss is an “equal opportunity jerk” or they are just an all-around terrible person, then they are not harassing anyone based on a protected classification and the harassment is not against the law (however foolish and unethical such behavior may be). If you are not sure whether the harassment is unlawful, please consult an attorney to understand your rights.
Yes, if you have a disability and it interferes with your ability to do your job, but not with an essential function of the job. If it interferes with an essential function of your job, then your employer does not have to make an accommodation. If the accommodation you request is unreasonable or would pose an undue hardship on the employer, then the employer does not have to accommodate you. Your employer also has no duty to read your mind, so if you need an accommodation, you have to say so. You should ask for an accommodation well before you are fired for not fulfilling that portion of your job! Please consult an attorney if you feel you need an accommodation or if you’ve requested an accommodation and have been denied your accommodation to understand your rights.
Retaliation occurs when an employee reports a violation of a law, and the employer treats that employee worse because of the report. If you did report a violation of the law, and you subsequently suffered a demotion, reduction in pay, or other negative employment actions, please consult an attorney to evaluate your case.
Yes, unless you are fired because you took the disability or FMLA leave. Your employer is free to fire you for another reason (reduction in force, lay off, performance issues before the leave) even if you are on disability or FMLA leave. If you were terminated while on medical leave, please consult an attorney to determine if you have a claim. If you were terminated on worker's compensation leave, please consult a worker's compensation attorney. If you don't know one, we would be happy to provide you with a referral.