How pretext works in an employment law context

When an employer terminates a worker’s employment status, there is commonly a work related issue attached to it. This may be a performance related reason, such as not completing assignments on time, or insubordination, or it could be an attendance issue, such as not showing up for work or being chronically late for their shift.

However, there are many instances where the stated reason for termination is not the actual reason. In essence, the stated reason is pretext to conceal the real reason for the firing. This post will briefly define pretext and explain how it may work in your case. 

Pretext is defined as a proffered reason for taking a particular course of action, but it is not the reason (or actual) reason for taking said action. In an employment law context, it is like saying that an employee was fired for being chronically late, but the real reason is that an employer wanted to make room for an employee that he or she preferred.

While California law allows employers to terminate employees for any reason (even illogical reasons), some employers may cross the line and fire employees for illegal reasons (i.e. based on race, sex age or other protected statuses). So one way that employees can protect themselves and find remedies for wrongful termination is to show that the reason for the firing was pretext to mask a more sinister action.

If you have questions about pretext and how it can be proven, an experienced employment law attorney can help. 

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