Can Being Rude to Your Employer Ruin a Wrongful Termination Case?
California law protects you against wrongful termination. Termination is unlawful when an employee is fired in retaliation for exercising certain legal rights, or when an employee is terminated for a discriminatory purpose. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable California wrongful termination and retaliation lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights.
If you are experiencing discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, it’s easy to get frustrated. What happens if you snap at your boss? Can being rude affect your eventual wrongful termination case? Continue reading to find out.
Termination Must Be Based on Illegal Reasons to Be Wrongful
Unless you are protected by an employment contract, your employer can fire you for almost any reason, or no reason at all. If you are covered by a contract, then your employer is limited to the reasons covered by the contract, such as bad behavior or performance issues.
Regardless of whether your employment is contractual or “at will,” your employer cannot fire you for an illegal reason. Illegal reasons include:
Discrimination based on protected characteristics (race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.)
Retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct internally or externally, including participation in an investigation or lawsuit regarding unlawful conduct
Retaliation for exercising a protected right, such as the right to seek workers’ compensation after an injury, obtain disability benefits, seek reasonable accommodation for a disability, take protected medical leave, etc.
To successfully bring a wrongful termination case, you’ll need to demonstrate that the employer fired you for that unlawful reason. You’ll need to show, for example, a pattern of firing employees of a certain race, gender, or religion, discriminatory conduct, or retaliatory action after you blew the whistle or complained of unlawful behavior in the workplace.
Being Rude to Your Employer Is an Excuse to Fire You
If your employer can point to a legitimate, lawful reason that they terminated you, you’ll have much more trouble winning your case. If you begin to (understandably) resent your employer for engaging in discrimination or harassment against you and you send a rude email, swear at them in the office, or engage in other rude conduct, you are giving your employer a legitimate reason to fire you.
Unfortunately, even if you can show that you were the subject of discrimination or harassment, if your employer can point to your rude behavior, then you’ll have the additional hurdle of proving that it was discrimination or retaliation that was the real reason you were fired. Because your employer now has a “legitimate” reason for your termination, you’ll be facing a much more challenging uphill battle. In many cases, it’s impossible to prove the “real” reason for your termination.
You are allowed to speak up about discrimination, harassment, and other inappropriate conduct, and it’s important that you do so. You must be careful, however, to keep things professional, even when your supervisor does not. It’s especially damning if your employer can point to emails, text messages, voicemails, or other direct evidence of rude behavior on your part. It’s certainly unfair, but it’s the reality of court.
If you are experiencing harassment, discrimination, or retaliation at work, talk to an experienced employment law attorney before you do anything drastic. They’ll guide you on your next steps, preserving your rights and avoiding any pitfalls that could undermine your claims.
If you are a San Francisco employee or employer in need of advice or representation concerning equal pay violations, retaliation, whistleblower protections, workplace discrimination, or other California labor law issues, contact the Bay Area employment law attorneys Richard Koss and Rand L. Stephens at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula, or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.