Before you fire any employee, protect yourself and your business by running through a checklist of wrongful termination laws and being confident that none of them apply. 

Even if the documented reason for the termination is not on the list, you often need to be careful as former employees sometimes have long memories. It is not unheard of for workers to come back with a wrongful termination lawsuit built upon a conversation or event that occurred many years before. 

Discrimination and retaliation 

According to FindLaw, federal law prevents you from terminating an employee for discriminatory reasons that include, but are not limited to: 

  • Gender 
  • Age 
  • Race 
  • Religion 
  • Nationality 
  • Disability 

You also may not fire a worker because they allege that you engage in discriminatory practices like sexual harassment or pay inequality. 

Occupation Safety and Health Act 

It is illegal to fire an employee for filing a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations. It does not matter if OSHA investigated the claim and found it baseless. 

Immigration Reform and Control Act 

If a legal alien has documentation proving his or her eligibility to work in California, you may not terminate the worker based on citizenship status. 

Violation of Public Policy 

Public policy, which generally centers on ethics and morals, can have a subjective interpretation that can complicate the determination of whether a violation occurred. However, it is usually prohibited to terminate employees because they took advantage of legal protections such as the Family Medical and Leave Act. You also typically cannot fire workers if they refuse to perform an illegal act for your company or report your business for unlawful activity, known as “whistleblower protection.” 

Employee Polygraph Protection Act 

This federal law prevents you from terminating an employee if he or she refuses a lie detector test.