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California newscaster sues Viacom for wrongful termination


California employers have a lot of leeway when it comes to firing employees. Most employees are at-will employees and can therefore be fired for almost any reason, without warning. Being an at-will employee also means that an employer can fire someone for personal reasons.

However, federal and California employment laws do preclude employers from firing someone for a discriminatory reason. In other words, employers cannot fire someone based on a variety of factors that are generally outside an employee's control including the employee's religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin or other similar category. If an employer does, for example, fire employees because of their race then the employees have suffered from a wrongful dismissal.

Recently, a transgendered newscaster has sued television network BET and its parent company Viacom for wrongful termination. In this case, the newscaster claims that he was told to tone down his fashion choices at a pre-awards show. The newscaster had a feminine look originally but was forced to remove his high heels, pull back his hair and change clothes before the BET Awards. Furthermore, he was asked to wear a conservative suit. After complying with all these changes, the style correspondent was still replaced before the show started.

The man has since sued for emotional distress and unlawful discrimination in addition to the wrongful termination claim. He is asking for $2.5 million in damages from the companies. Viacom has claimed that this man's termination was not intentional and said it was all a misunderstanding.

California employees need to understand the reasons for which they cannot be fired. While many reasons are not protected by employee laws, being fired for discriminatory reasons is not alright. People should not be afraid to stand up to their former employers and get the compensation they need and deserve.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Fashion Blogger Sues Bet Over Attire Clash, Discrimination in California," Aug. 9, 2013

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