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What is Considered as Wrongful Termination in California?

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Know what is considered wrongful termination and when you should seek the advice of a California Wrongful Termination Lawyer

In 2018, in a wrongful termination case that, on the surface, seemed to revolve around the theft of $636, a California Superior Court awarded a former Chipotle manager nearly $8 million in compensation.

Chipotle argued that Jeannette Ortiz was terminated from her job because she stole $636 from the local restaurant she managed. Chipotle reported during the trial that it had a recording of the robbery, but someone damaged the footage before the trial.

Chipotle also said that it threw away all correspondence, documents, and memos about the former manager's dismissal. Ms. Ortiz claimed she never stole any money and claimed that Chipotle had deliberately fired her because of her past workers' compensation lawsuits and pregnancies. The California court eventually sided with Ms. Ortiz.

Under federal law, employees in California have the right to apply for employee health insurance for on-the-job accidents and, if eligible, to take time off under the Family Medical Leave Act for pregnancies. It is illegal for an employer in California to fire a worker for exercising their rights under these laws in retaliation.

How To File A Case For Wrongful Termination In California?

In California Employment Law, Wrongful Termination is said to have happened when an individual has been fired for illegal reasons, such as discrimination or abuse. In other words, in violation of state or federal laws, an employee who has been dismissed unfairly will file a wrongful termination claim requesting reimbursement for damages.

It is also illegal to fire an employee in California either because they have filed a legal case against the employer or because, as a whistleblower, an employee has brought the employer's misconduct report to light. This form of action is called "retaliatory." If you think that you have been a victim of wrongful termination in Los Angeles, there are some steps that you need to take to defend your rights.

Document All Evidence To Support Your Wrongful Termination Claim

The evidence you can deliver showing you were wrongfully terminated is crucial in a wrongful termination case. It is necessary to ensure that you have written proof of comments and other facts that you may be able to use during the proceedings to show wrongful termination in a California lawsuit. This could be anything as basic as your employer's negative remark. If you are reporting a statement, ensure that you include the time, place, and names of individuals present when the comment was made.

It helps to be organized by generating evidence of all events leading to your termination. Be consistent with keeping all bits of evidence that are important to your argument in written documents. Specifically, here are some of the documents that are important to support your wrongful termination claim in California:

  • Official documents.

  • Your personnel file.

  • Your letter of termination or notice of layoff. If you have been terminated face to face, write down the specifics, if any, of the conversation with your supervisor or manager. Have the time, date, and location where it happened so that you have reliable records.

  • Your work evaluations and performance reviews.

  • Handbooks and/or employee manuals.

  • The employment contract if possible.

  • Union documentation or contracts.

  • Documentation of official messages, such as emails or memos.

  • Paychecks and stubs. These are important to help you calculate how much compensation is owed to you as a result of the wrongful termination.

  • Coworker interviews. If your coworkers have encountered prejudice, abuse, or some form of unequal treatment, their statements may be highly useful to your situation.

  • Keep records relevant to your case in a position where you can quickly access them. Know that you will lose access to records and files saved on your work computer when you are terminated. This is why keeping records and copies at home is a smart idea.

If you need a wrongful termination lawyer, do not rely on lawyer's ads or marketing materials.

The complexity of a wrongful termination case can be difficult and complicated for an average person. Hiring any California Wrongful Termination Attorney is a bad idea. Los Angeles County has the highest number of disciplinary actions against California lawyers who commit unethical acts. (check our attorney discipline section for more details)

If you don't have time to conduct due diligence when looking for a good wrongful termination, get an unbiased lawyer referral from an accredited organization.

An ethical and experienced Los Angeles Wrongful Termination Lawyer will assist in evaluating all the facts and specifics of your case, looking at your particular situation, and giving you his or her determination. An employment attorney in Los Angeles would also understand what federal, state, and local laws are and how they relate to your circumstance.

Initial employment law consultations are always free when you get a referral to a suitable lawyer. So, getting the initial assessment with a consultation will not cost you anything. Moreover, you'll have peace of mind knowing the employment attorney in Los Angeles has been vetted and that all credentials are in order.

Once you hire a Los Angeles CA Wrongful Termination Lawyer to represent you in a wrongful termination claim, you'll enter into a contingency compensation deal, where the attorney only gets compensated for his or her efforts if the case is successful and won in your favor.

Employment Law Firms in California usually get a percentage of the awarded sum. You won't have to pay official costs associated with the case upfront, such as legal fines, fees for facilities, expenses for court reporters, etc. It's always a good idea to have one of our prescreened Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys explain all expenses in detail before you enter into an agreement.

How To File Wrongful Termination Claim In California?

A pre-screened and experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer will also know where the case needs to be filed. Generally, the location where you file will depend on the reason for your wrongful termination. For example, a case claiming breach of contract is brought in civil court, either in a state or a federal court.

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or the relevant state agency will file unfair termination claims arising from discrimination in the workplace. You will be entitled to take further action against your employer if the EEOC finds the wrongful termination claim legitimate.

The EEOC has a self-assessment method to determine if it is necessary to file a case with the EEOC. A wrongful termination lawyer in Los Angeles will represent you to write your case. The notice must be served to your former employer, which can be accomplished by registered mail and return receipt submitted through the county sheriff and a competent process server.

Your claim must be filed with the court clerk after the notice has been served. It would be possible for competent Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys to ensure that these critical protocols are followed so that the case progresses smoothly through the system.

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How To Prove a Wrongful Termination Claim in California?

Several ways prove that employment termination has been wrongful and unconstitutional. The following procedure and measures are involved in bringing the case to court:

The phase of Discovery: Both sides must exchange all relevant documentation and evidence used during the trial to support the case before a case goes to court. The discovery process typically has three elements. A "written discovery" entails each group presenting the other with written questions. These questions are known as "interrogatories." Unless there is a legal excuse not to do so, each question must be answered.

Each side will ask to see important documents during the "document production" phase of the discovery process. This may include the employee's employment records, handbook, policy manuals, etc., in a wrongful termination situation.

Finally, the other side and any witnesses in the case should be interviewed by either side. Those that are deposed will be under oath, and a court reporter will document the interviews. During a deposition, the comments made can sometimes be used during the trial.

Alternative settlement of disputes: Before the case goes to trial, most wrongful termination cases in California are settled out of court. You will be able to consider whether it would be more desirable to mediate or arbitrate than to go to court. Before setting a trial date, some courts can require both parties to attempt mediation. With the aid of a neutral third party, mediation is a process that can help parties find a compromise. Arbitration is a streamlined trial that makes the laws of Discovery and procedures simpler.

To go to trial: Your case can proceed to trial if both parties cannot negotiate a settlement for compensation and if mediation or arbitration has not been helpful. Both sides will show their proof and evidence during a trial. Concerning the case's outcome, a judge or jury will make the final decision.

How Much Will You Settle Your Wrongful Termination Case For?

You may wonder what your wrongful termination case is worth if you consider suing an employer for wrongful termination. Usually, depending on the damages, which are the injuries you have suffered due to the wrongful termination, your settlement will be measured in these types of cases. You will be allowed to show these damages or losses with records and other evidence.

What Damages Will You Expect From A Claim For Wrongful Termination?

As part of your wrongful termination settlement, you will be entitled to receive the following forms of monetary damage:

Wages lost due to being wrongfully terminated: This applies to any back pay you would have gained if you had been working. This includes incentives, some kind of interest, wage rises, changes in cost of living, and promotional pay increases. In such cases, claimants are expected to "mitigate" their damages, which suggests that they are expected to pursue a similar job as soon as possible. If the employer may show that the employee has failed to do so, the mitigated sums measured will be removed from the settlement. If the fired worker seeks a new job with lower wages, Missed Front Pay can be reported.

Lost benefits as a result of being wrongfully terminated: Benefits are a large portion of the pay packages of most employees. So, after a wrongful termination, they must be included in estimates showing an economic loss. Healthcare coverage, pension plans, retirement savings, equity options, and transportation reimbursements are included in the benefits.

Medical benefits lost due to being wrongfully terminated: If the terminated employee's health policy has changed and he or she incurs extra medical costs, these will be included in the lawsuit.

The cost associated with searching for new employment: Many searching for a job can also incur costs. Studies indicate that plaintiffs who sued for this form of injury earned three times higher average payout than those who did not.

Emotional Distress from wrongful termination: This is also known as pain and suffering reimbursement. A jury would award those damages if the employer's actions caused the employee emotional distress. Such harm may be checked by a psychologist or psychiatrist's testimony.

Attorney's fees and court costs to file a wrongful termination lawsuit: You will also recover money to cover all legal fees.

Punitive damages due to a wrongful termination: To punish California employers who have committed an egregious crime, certain forms of damages are awarded. To prevent other companies from engaging in such egregious conduct or committing such crimes, courts can also award certain kinds of damages.

Do I Need A Wrongful Termination Lawyer in Los Angeles To File A Lawsuit?

Making a wrongful termination claim without legal representation can be very complicated. You need someone with a detailed knowledge of labor law and the different laws of the state that refer to your unique case. These forms of civil litigation often require complainants to follow specific protocols and deadlines, which can prove frustrating, complicated, and even intimidating.

If you need to file a wrongful termination claim, retaining the services of an experienced and pre-screened wrongful termination attorney in California who can help decide if you have a claim could be in your best interest. Your wrongful termination lawyer will also offer advice on your area's applicable laws and procedures and can assist you with filing your lawsuit. You will need a lawyer with trial experience who can take the case to a trial if necessary.

California Wrongful Termination Exceptions

All 50 states, including California, accept "at-will employment." This means that an employer may terminate your work for any reason at any time and without any legal consequences. There are some exceptions, however, that allow workers to tackle any unjust or unlawful terminations. If you have been terminated under the following conditions, the employer might be liable:

Public policy violations: Public policy refers to the philosophy upon which social laws are centered. Some rules exist in our culture for the good of everyone. For an employer to dismiss an employee for engaging in activities such as participating in jury duty or taking time to vote is a breach of public policy. It is also illegal to fire anyone because he or she made a lawsuit for reimbursement from employees for an injury received on the job or refused to violate the law, lie under oath or participate in racist conduct. Public policy exemption applies to whistleblowers, but only where it affects health and safety, breaches of the law, criminal acts, or immoral business practices. Forty-three states have implemented exemptions from public regulation, including California.

Written work contracts: Usually, such contracts are given only to managers and top management. It is a legally binding arrangement, and the terms and conditions spelled out in the contract must be complied with by both employer and employee. In breach of a written contract, when the employer fires the employee, the employee has a basis for a wrongful firing lawsuit.

Implied employment contract: An implied contract is an arrangement between an employer and an employee, not in writing. For instance, if they comment about your job security or verbally guarantee you a particular job title, you might have an implicit contract with your employer. Often, the employer has a legal responsibility not to fire an employee as long as they comply with the rules in the handbook when employers inform workers their rights and duties of employment are in the written company manual. The employee handbook, in such situations, acts as the implicit employment contract.

Covenant of good faith: A "covenant" is considered as an agreement or a contract. An employer and an employee's arrangement to behave honestly and equally with each other is a pact of good faith in the sense of employment. A good faith covenant resembles an implicit contract. The unspoken agreement here is that the worker will continue to keep their job until they obey the rules of integrity and justice. A violation of the agreement occurs when diligently, an employee is dismissed after performing all job duties. For instance, a breach of good faith would be considered if a company fires an employee just before he or she retires just to avoid paying full retirement benefits.

Constructive discharge: This is often referred to as "constructive termination" and essentially indicates that the employee leaves, but only because the employer's actions forced them out. Since the employee did not willingly resign, he or she is deemed to have been dismissed. This scenario happens when an employer purposely changes an employee's working conditions and working atmosphere to make it intolerable for him or her to continue. Employees resigning in this way are normally ineligible to obtain unemployment benefits. You must speak to an experienced wrongful termination lawyer to better understand your rights if you have been forced out of your job because of abuse, discrimination, or a hostile work atmosphere.

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California Wrongful Termination and Federal Laws

The EEOC is responsible for implementing federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers because of their protected characteristics, such as race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, or genetic details, such as family medical history. Discriminating against a worker violates federal laws. It is also against federal law to terminate an employee because they have reported workplace discrimination, filed a complaint of discrimination by a coworker or supervisor or engaged in an investigation or litigation into employment discrimination.

Example of wrongful termination due to discrimination: In 2013, Kourtney Liggins filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The wrongful termination claim, in this case, was connected to her pregnancy. Ms. Liggins' teaching contract was not extended by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging that she was frequently late for class and that she answered phone calls during class.

However, the real reason for terminating her employment was that she was unwed and pregnant, Ms. Liggins claimed. A priest told her that her pregnancy would "morally corrupt" her students, Ms. Liggins said, and she was let go a few months later.

The court found this wrongful termination claim to be valid. Regarding every area of employment, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans discrimination based on pregnancy. Thus, when it fired Ms. Liggins for being unwed and pregnant, the Archdiocese behaved unlawfully.

Experienced Wrongful Termination Lawyers in Los Angeles win bigger Verdicts

While you can file a complaint with the EEOC that does not actually require legal counsel, retaining the services of a professional and experienced wrongful termination lawyer in Los Angeles will still be in your best interest. To discover facts and assess your case's essence and complexity, attorneys have the legal experience required.

Your lawyer may even compel your employer to turn over essential documents such as copies of internal records that you might not even be aware of or have access to, such as your staff file, business financial records, hiring practices, internal emails and memos, and even camera footage of protection or surveillance.

During the discovery process, your lawyer will question your employer under oath, arrange for expert witness testimony, and review your employer's files and official records. If he or she can claim that your employer participated in egregious conduct, your lawyer can also help you get extra money in punitive damages.

The best California employment lawyers at do not bill for an initial consultation and offer a no-win-no-fee guarantee, ensuring that you do not incur fees if you do not win compensation. In a wrongful termination case, there is too much at stake to fight on your own without the strong help that an experienced employment lawyer or law firm may give you.

Common Frequently Asked Questions About California Wrongful Termination

So, let's talk about crucial concerns about wrongful termination in California:

What's wrongful termination in California?

Wrongful termination law applies to the legislation that has been placed in place to preserve individuals' rights and prevent them from being wrongfully terminated. These laws also specify the form and amount of compensation that people may demand if an employer has dismissed them wrongfully.

When Is a Termination Considered Illegal and Wrongful in California?

There are a set of variables that define what constitutes wrongful termination. The most common instances of unfair termination include those where, because of his or her race, sexual orientation, or beliefs, an employer has discriminated against an employee. You must contact an experienced California Wrongful Termination lawyer to further discuss your legal options if you feel that you have been fired illegally from your work.

Does At-Will Employment in California Impact Claims of Wrongful Termination?

The golden state is considered an at-will employment jurisdiction. This means that your employer will terminate your work without offering a reason. Similarly, workers may leave their jobs without offering a reason or excuse. Therefore, proving wrongful termination can be difficult. An experienced and competent Wrongful Termination Attorney in Los Angeles, however, will not only be able to tell the difference but will also help decide whether you have an argument and help you show that you have been dismissed wrongfully.

Can I employ a wrongful termination lawyer if I think I've been terminated wrongfully?

Yeah, you must get a referral to a pre-screened, ethical, and top employment lawyer in California with special expertise and experience in the field of wrongful termination law. To make your case, there are a variety of conditions that must be met. A competent lawyer can also ensure that all documentation is duly filed and within the deadlines.

When Should I Hire a California Wrongful Termination Lawyer?

It will be in your best interest, as soon as possible, to retain the services of a top Employment Law Firm in California. Given that there are statutes of limitations when it comes to wrongful termination, failing to act may delay you from having the compensation you rightly deserve.

I Filed a Worker’s Compensation Claim and Was Fired Shortly After. Do I Have a Case for Wrongful Termination?

You likely have a retaliation case against your boss, which is also illegal. If you think you were hurt at work, filing a worker's compensation is your right. If you have done something you have a right to do, your employer cannot discriminate against you.

Can I File a Lawsuit if I Get Fired Just Because My Supervisor Doesn’t Like Me?

You, "the plaintiff," must claim in a wrongful firing lawsuit that you have been fired because of an unlawful act such as discrimination, assault, or revenge. You could have a lawsuit, for instance, if your employer didn't like you because of your race, religion, or sexual orientation and made it clear to you by their acts and behavior.

Can I Be Fired After Reporting Something Illegal That Took Place at Work?

No, you can't be fired for disclosing criminal activity. For example, if you reported unsafe conditions that could cause injury to employees in your workplace., If your employer terminated your employment after reporting illegal activity, it would be considered illegal as "retaliation."

How Do I Request An Unbiased Referral To A Pre-Screened, Ethical California Employment Attorney?
  1. You can submit a request online 24 hours a day. Free case review within 15 minutes.

  2. By chat, you'll be connected with an employment lawyer specializing in California wrongful termination within 5 minutes.

  3. By calling the employee right's 24-hour hotline at 1-661-310-7999

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