WRONGFUL TERMINATION I CORONAVIRUS – Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy – Employee Rights in Light of the Coronavirus
April 8, 2020
Terminating an employee for failing to report to work, following the California state issued “stay at home” order, raises grounds for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit. In California a “wrongful termination” lawsuit, in violation of public policy, is a legal action in which a worker is fired, laid off or otherwise terminated for illegal or improper purposes. Generally, we see these cases arise when an employer terminates an employee as repercussion for an employee’s refusal to engage in conduct that violates state or federal law in violation of public policy. Currently there is an increase in such claims, because some employers are forcing employees to report to work, when such services are “non-essential”. The State of California has issued a stay at home order, and an employer may not coerce an employee to report to work, in violation of that state order. If an employee is discharged for failing to report to work during the coronavirus when the stay at home order is in effect, then the employer may be liable for wrongful termination.
In the precedent case, Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1238, 1256, the court ruled: “[t]ort claims for wrongful discharge [in violation of public policy] typically arise when an employer retaliates against an employee for “(1) refusing to violate a statute … [,] (2) performing a statutory obligation … [,] (3) exercising a statutory right or privilege … [, or] (4) reporting an alleged violation of a statute of public importance.”
In the current climate, California’s Stay at Home Order holds the same weight and effect as a statute, and should an employer retaliate against an employee for refusing to violate the California Stay at Home Order, then a tort claim for wrongful discharge arises.
What does the California State issued “stay at home” order say?
The state of California advises: “Stay home except for essential needs … The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” If you have any questions regarding the Stay at home order, we direct you to the Official State of California website: https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/
If you were wrongfully terminated or discharged for refusing to report to work in violation of the stay at home order, you should contact our offices immediately at 619-432-5145 for a free consultation with one of our wrongful termination attorneys to discuss your Covid-19 termination case or Coronavirus wrongful termination case.
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