According to the legal definition of wrongful dismissal, this exists when the act of terminating a contract or dismissing an employee violates one or more state and/or federal laws or breaches a written or de facto contract. These definitions vary a little according to the legal status.
Violations which constitute wrongful dismissal by legal definition:
- A discriminatory dismissal where the employee belongs to one of the categories protected by law and the reason for dismissal is precisely based on these categories. In California these protected classes are: race, sex, religion, age, sexual inclination, identity expression, nation of origin, disability, medical condition, military or veteran status, and others.
- Dismissal in violation of contract: The employee is dismissed against the terms established in the contract. There is an implicit contract where the employee will not be dismissed as long as there is work available and he or she fulfills obligations.
- Dismissal as retaliation: The employer forbids the employee to exercise his or her legal rights, such as claiming workers’ compensation benefits after suffering an injury, or deciding to serve as a witness against the employer. Once these rights are exercised, the employee is fired.
- Dismissal because the employee refuses to commit an illegal act: Employees are not obligated to violate federal and state laws and ordinances and can even be prosecuted, even when they are ordered by their employers. The law permits them to refuse to violate the law even when they are told to do so by a supervisor.
- The employer does not follow the same dismissal procedures established in the employee manual: Every company or the majority of companies have established steps to follow for failure to fulfill work obligations in the employee manual. If the company fires a worker without following the established procedure, this is wrongful dismissal.
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