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Does an employer have to tell you why you were fired?

Like most states, California is an at-will employment state. A business may fire an employee at any time without prior notice and does not have to provide a reason for the firing. But an employment contract may include a requirement that an explanation be given to the fired employee, although this is uncommon.

Federal law requires that employers with more than 100 employees provide their workers prior notice of mass layoffs or if a plant is closing. But there are no federal laws forcing an employer to explain their decision to a fired employee.

Yet there are reasons for employers to volunteer that information. Providing an explanation may deter an employee from filing a unlawful termination lawsuit. It can also bolster a company’s brand as a good place to work.

Companies that don’t tell workers why they were fired earn a reputation as a poor company to work for, making it harder to fill open positions and find good workers. Some companies do explain the termination for this reason, but usually it’s done in anticipation of an unlawful termination claim. But can the reason provided affect a future claim or lawsuit? In many instances, the answer is yes.

Employees are protected in California from unlawful termination. An employee firing is considered unlawful if it:

    • Violates an implied contract.
    • Is in retaliation under California leave laws or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
    • Is in retaliation for:
      • Exercising a right to vacation pay.
      • Filing a worker’s compensation
      • Reporting sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.
      • Engaging in protected whistleblower
      • Fulfilling a legal obligation, such as jury duty.

Therefore, many employers choose to tell employees why they were fired because providing a legal explanation avoids or lessens the chance of a wrongful termination claim. Showing that the termination was unlawful is the employee’s legal burden, including that the reasons given the employee were false.

Speaking with a LawPLA attorney focused on employer’s defense can help avoid wrongful termination claims and defend you against claims before the FEHA or other adjudicatory board – or in court. Schedule a consultation by contacting one of our Los Angeles offices or making an appointment online. We are here for you.


PLEASE NOTE: This is not a representation, warranty, or guarantee of a future result or outcome. Every case is different just like every one of our clients.