What is the Difference Between Terminated vs. Laid Off?

California is an at-will employment state.

Companies have the authority to let workers go for a wide range of different reasons — potentially even for ill-advised or largely frivolous reasons.

When it comes to hiring and firing, employers in our state retain a considerable amount of discretion.

That being said, employers cannot remove a worker for an illegal reason or in breach of a contract.

Understanding the Difference Between Terminated and Laid Off in California

Getting “let go” by an employer does not always occur under the same circumstances.

For example, a worker may be ‘fired’ or ‘terminated’ because of alleged misconduct, poor performance, or reasonable disagreements with their supervisors.

In other cases, workers might be ‘laid off’ because the company is undergoing restructuring or downsizing.

In either case, if you were let go by your employer and you believe that your rights were violated, you should contact an experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney immediately.

What it Means to Be Laid Off in California

Layoffs, which are also frequently referred to as ‘reductions in force’ or ‘down-sizing’ are technically unrelated to the employee’s performance or to the employer’s perception of their performance.

As a general rule, this means that a company will not hire a replacement for a worker who was laid off — at least in the short-term or intermediate term.

What it Means to Be Terminated in California

In contrast, termination does not occur as a result of a lack of available work or funds.

Employers terminate (fire) workers for many different reasons. In some cases, employers have valid and wholly understandable reasons for getting rid of an employee.

In other cases, employers may have a flimsy or seemingly unfair reason, but the termination may still be legal.

However, there are also cases in which employees are terminated for unlawful reasons. When this occurs, a wrongful termination lawsuit may be necessary.  

The Legal Differences Between Being Laid Off and Terminated are Minimal

While the connotations of being laid off and being terminated are quite a bit different, for most California workers, there is no real legal difference. In both instances, the employer must comply with all relevant state and federal regulations.

Employers generally have the right to lay off or terminate workers, but they can be held liable if they act in a discriminatory, retaliatory, or otherwise unlawful manner.

Of course, there are some limited exceptions where there could be a legal difference. Most notably, an employee in California who was fired for misconduct may not be eligible to obtain unemployment benefits.

Though, this is an extremely complicated issue.

Workers who were fired for lack of skill or unintentional poor performance are generally still eligible to seek unemployment in California. Typically, only egregious misconduct will make an employee ineligible for unemployment.  

What to Do If You Were Wrongfully Terminated in California

Being fired from your job is stressful and overwhelming. This is especially true if you were not expecting adverse action to be taken against you. During this challenging time, it is crucial that you remain calm and that you take the appropriate steps to protect your interests.

If you were terminated in violation of California law or federal law, remedies are available — including financial compensation and, potentially, even reinstatement. You should do the following three things:

  1. Request a Written Notice: You have the right to ask for a written notice of your termination. It is in your best interests to get everything in writing. The more information you have, the better.
  2. Avoid Burning Bridges; Keep Positive Communication Open: If you were wrongfully fired, it is normal and understandable to want to stand up for yourself. But, you need to do so using the appropriate means. You should avoid burning any bridges for the time being, and you should keep the lines of communication open with any supportive co-workers or supervisors. Should litigation prove to be necessary, you may need to rely on witness testimony.
  3. Do Not Sign Anything Without Talking to a Lawyer: Finally, you should discuss your case with an experienced California wrongful termination attorney. It is strongly recommended that you speak to an attorney before signing a severance agreement or any other documents. Your lawyer will know the proper steps to take to protect your legal rights.

Get Help from a Los Angeles, California Wrongful Termination Lawyer Today

At Workplace Rights Law Group LLP, our top-rated California employment attorneys have deep experience representing workers in wrongful termination claims. Even if you were laid off, you may still have been the victim of wrongful termination.

To speak to an attorney about layoffs or terminations, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. We represent employees in Los Angeles and throughout the surrounding communities in Southern California.  

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