Most employment in California is employment “at will,” meaning that your employer can terminate your employment at any time and for any reason. But that reason must be a lawful reason. Wrongful termination occurs if your employer terminates your employment as an act of discrimination or retaliation, or if you are constructively discharged (essentially forced to resign) due to intolerable conditions of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Wrongful termination can also occur when you and your employer have an employment contract for a particular term, and your employer terminates you early without cause.
Victims of wrongful termination can recover compensatory damages like back pay (past lost earnings), interest, and emotional distress damages. If the reason for termination violates a law like the Fair Employment and Housing Act, victims can also seek remedies such as reinstatement, front pay (lost future earnings), punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.