The Coronavirus pandemic has upended life in unexpected ways. It has also taken a dramatic toll on the US economy. One of the most unfortunate results of the pandemic situation has been the loss of countless jobs throughout the country. Millions of Americans, mostly those working in “nonessential” roles, are out of work and uncertain what the future holds. Despite the fact that we are experiencing an unprecedented situation, the same protections that guard employees from wrongful termination still exist.
If you lost your job during the pandemic, it’s only natural to feel frustrated and a bit lost as to what to do next. However, it is vital to carefully assess the reasoning behind your termination and whether it falls within compliance of the labor laws in the United States and those of the state of California. An employment law attorney in Orange County, California can be a helpful asset when you are unsure whether your firing was legal.
What Is Wrongful Termination?
Most of the employee-employer relationships that exist in the United States function on an “at-will” basis. This means that either party, an employer or an employee, has the right to terminate a work relationship at any time, with or without prior notice, for any reason or no reason at all. While this at-will system exists to provide flexibility to both employers and employees, it is easy to see how some people may interpret these at-will laws as providing employers with more than enough leeway to fire an employee for any reason they like.
It is important to note the distinction between a wrongful termination and an unlawful termination. A wrongful termination could apply to any situation in which an employee is unfairly targeted for termination based on subjective issues that do not relate to protected status, such as complaining about a poor performance review, reporting non-discriminatory workplace bullying, or engaging in any conduct that results in termination when another employee who engaged in similar behavior was not terminated. In all of these situations, as long as the employee’s protected status is not involved in the employer’s decision to terminate, the termination may be wrongful but not unlawful.
Unlawful termination applies to any situation in which an employee is fired on the basis of their protected status, such as race, skin color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, age, or sex. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has created a slew of wrongful terminations, some of which may be unlawful but conducted under the guide of economic strain.
Examples of Wrongful Terminations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Americans working during the emergency situation continue to have the protections that were in place prior to the Coronavirus lockdown. A few examples of wrongful terminations that have occurred since the Coronavirus pandemic began include:
- Employees being fired for having positive COVID-19 tests or a related disability. This would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Employees unfairly targeted on the basis of their protected status, such as race or sexual orientation, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Retaliation against employees for reporting employers who failed to follow federal and state guidelines for minimizing the spread of the Coronavirus, such as social distancing rules and enhanced workplace cleaning procedures.
The Coronavirus pandemic may have changed the way Americans are working, but it has not changed any of the protections and rights afforded to American employees. It is essential for anyone who lost their job during the COVID-19 pandemic to carefully consider the reasoning provided for their termination.
If there is any reason to suspect that a termination was wrongful or unlawfully conducted on the basis of race, sex, religion, or any other protected quality, an employment law attorney in Orange County can help the employee determine the best steps to take to hold the employer accountable for their discriminatory behavior.