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Kanye West’s Company Sued for Wrongful Termination

The private Christian school, Donda Academy, has been hit with a wrongful termination lawsuit after letting go of two employees. Donda Academy is run by rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.

The two former staff members, Cecilia Hailey and Chekarey Byers, allege that Donda Academy fired them as “retaliation for reporting code violations.” They further claim that the academy withheld their wages, improperly paid them on multiple occasions, and discriminated against them for their race. 

The pair reported the school for various safety and health code violations. Some of the most egregious include:

  • A complete lack of janitorial staff
  • No security measures
  • Building that only lock from the outside
  • Insufficient medical and nursing support
  • Lack of basic training in emergency medical care

Furthermore, Hailey and Byers state that the school was failing to meet state regulations on matters like student individualized learning plans and other accommodations.

The pair attempted to file numerous complaints about the conditions at the school with the board of directors. However, their concerns were dismissed, and they allege that the school board called them “aggressive.” As the only two Black women to ever work for the school, they allege that this was a form of racial discrimination

Additionally, the pair was fired shortly after bringing up their concerns. They argue that this is a form of wrongful dismissal under state law. As such, they are suing the academy, the board of directors, and Ye for the losses they suffered due to the discrimination and unjust firing. 

While Byer’s and Hailey’s lawsuit is just beginning, it demonstrates some of the hallmarks of a wrongful dismissal case. Here’s what you need to know about termination laws in California, examples of wrongful termination, and how to prove your case. 

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination is firing someone in a way that violates federal or state laws or the employment contract between the employer and employee. 

Most states have “at-will” employment laws, meaning employers can fire workers for any reason. However, these laws are constrained by anti-discrimination laws. This means an employer cannot fire someone because they are part of a protected class or engaged in a protected activity, even in at-will states. If a company does so, the worker was wrongfully terminated and can file a civil lawsuit to pursue reinstatement and compensation for their losses.

There are many ways this can occur. Here are some examples of the three broad categories of wrongful termination:

Termination as Retaliation

Byer and Hailey’s case is one possible example of firing someone in retaliation for their actions. It is unlawful to fire someone for taking actions protected by state law. For example, employers cannot fire workers for:

  • Refusing to perform sexual favors
  • Filing whistleblower reports with OSHA or other state or industry regulatory agencies
  • Notifying your human resources department about your manager’s behavior
  • Discussing your wages
  • Joining or talking about unions
  • Requesting or taking protected leave

If you are fired for any of these reasons, you have been wrongfully terminated and may be able to take legal action against your employer. 

Termination as Discrimination

Similarly, employers cannot fire someone because of a protected trait or characteristic. In California, protected classes include race, sex, gender identity and presentation, marital status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and more. 

If your employer fires you because of your protected class, they have violated state law. You can hold them accountable for their behavior by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Termination as Contract Violation

If your employment contract has terms dictating how you may or may not be dismissed, your employer must follow those terms. For example, suppose your agreement states that you cannot be terminated without being given three warnings for behavior and that you must be given 30 days’ notice before the end of your employment. If you do not get three warnings and 30 days’ notice before being fired, your employer violated your contract and wrongfully terminated you. 

Proving Wrongful Termination in California

Because it is an at-will state, proving wrongful termination in California can be complex. Most employers are well aware of wrongful dismissal and will usually give another reason for your dismissal. It falls on you, the plaintiff, to prove two things:

  • Your employer’s stated reason for your termination was false.
  • You were actually terminated for an illegal reason or in violation of your contract.

Collecting evidence is crucial for these issues. You will work with your employment attorney to gather documentation related to your dismissal, such as:

  • Emails and recorded communications: If you have received any voicemails or other messages from your employer that demonstrate prejudice, these items can support your claim that your termination was unjust.
  • Testimony from colleagues: Similarly, you can ask coworkers who have witnessed prejudiced behavior to confirm your story. 
  • Records about your employment: You can gather quarterly reviews to demonstrate that your work met company standards. You can also use your contract to verify that your employer violated its terms. 

Your California employment lawyer will help you shape this evidence into a compelling case against your employer. 

Stand Up to Wrongful Termination in California

The Kanye West lawsuit has been well-publicized because it involves a celebrity, but wrongful terminations happen every day in California. If you have been illegally fired, you can take legal action and pursue compensation for your lost wages, benefits, and other damages. 

At the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., our wrongful termination attorneys are proud to help you. We have years of experience representing Los Angeles and California workers who have been given a raw deal. Learn more about how we can fight for you by scheduling a free consultation today. 

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