Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Learn the things on what to do when you are subjected to a Wrongful Termination in California
The state of California has a sizable working population. Many of these employees are covered by state and federal labor legislation, which can prohibit them from being fired or compelled to resign in some circumstances. Each pre-screened and top Employment Lawyers in California at 1000Attorneys.com is committed to assisting individuals and businesses in achieving positive outcomes in employment law cases, including wrongful termination cases.
The Basics of Wrongful Termination in California
While California does not have specific wrongful termination laws, there are a number of state and federal laws that provide workers with wrongful termination protection. There are times that a worker may file a valid claim against an employer for a forced employment termination under these unfair termination laws.
Retaliation, discrimination, breach of contract, character assassination, breach of good faith, and constructive discharge are all examples of wrongful termination. Our Employment Attorneys in Los Angeles have the following brief examples of these California wrongful termination causes:
1. Retaliation: occurs when an employee is fired as a result of the employee disclosing the employer's unlawful act to the relevant authorities.
2. Discrimination: Termination based on discrimination in the workplace happens when someone is fired because of their caste, creed, sex, color, race, faith, or some other discriminatory purpose.
3. Breach of express or implied contract: A breach of express contract occurs when an employee's job is dependent on a contract for a fixed period of time, and the employer terminates the employee without justification before the period ends. Jobs may or may not be dependent on a contract. In these cases, employers' policy guides, employee handbooks, employee agreements, and other similar documents may be interpreted as binding, implicit contracts of continued employment.
Foley vs. Interactive Data Corp., a landmark California case, established certain conditions to be eligible for implied contracts, including an employee's chain of promotions, raises, excellent merit ratings, and verbal promises of job security.
4. Character assassination: An unfair firing in breach of public policy occurs when an employer makes a false statement about an employee in order to fire the employee.
5. Breach of Good Faith Covenant: The employer has made an implicit commitment to handle the workers equally. When an employee is fired for false reasons provided by the employer, it is deemed a breach of good faith and a fair deal.
Your employer is in breach of contract if they terminate you before the end of your contract or if they fail to deliver on any commitments given or implied by the contract.
If your employer is able to discuss a beneficial severance package for you, you don't have to sue them. (We will even assist you in reaching a settlement agreement.) If you can't come to an agreement, it's time to go to court.
Written contract breaches are uncommon since they are simple to prove and execute. If such breaches happen, they usually happen at a high level and may be worth millions of dollars. Oral and implied contract breaches are much more common.
In California, what constitutes a contract breach?
The majority of contracts contain clauses that cover:
Pay (Wages, salaries, commissions)
Employer and employee responsibilities
Workforce reduction contingencies, including severance compensation
Any failure to satisfy these requirements is considered a violation under California law, and each of the above provisos has a remedy.
3. Constructive discharge/dismissal. This happens when an employee is forced to leave due to the employer's changes in the workplace.
Which Laws Protect Employees?
Wrongful termination is both unfair and unlawful. However, many employers engage in other unethical activities on a regular basis, such as unfair wages based on gender, race, and age, as well as inadequate working conditions and a lack of overtime pay.
However, there are regulations in place to protect employees from unethical and unfair employment practices. They are as follows:
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Act on Social Security
1964 Civil Rights Act
Occupational Safety and Health Act
Affordable Care Act
Family and Medical Leave Act
Fair Labor Standards Act
Protected Characteristics and Protected Activities
Wrongful termination is one way an employer can participate in illegal discrimination or harassment against an employee, as well as break employment laws and breach employee rights. When your employer fires you for some illegal cause, this is known as wrongful termination. Job discrimination, employer abuse, retribution, your membership in a protected class of workers, or your participation in a protected activity may all be unlawful motives.
A protected class is a category of citizens who are afforded special legal rights. Among the groups that are covered are:
A protected activity is an action that an employee may engage in without fear of being fired legally. Among the activities that are covered are:
Complaining about the employer's unpaid overtime, unpaid salaries, unhealthy working conditions, or illegal behavior such as:
Reporting illegal activity
Notifying the authorities of a civil infraction
Taking advantage of a civil or constitutional right
There are occasions, though, where an employee believes they were wrongfully dismissed, but the employer has not broken any employment laws.
It will help you to seek the opinion of prescreened California wrongful termination attorneys to get your case reviewed in order to understand the difference in your specific circumstance.
What is the Importance of Wrongful Termination Cases for At-Will Employees?
Jobs who seek advice and legal aid from a wrongful termination lawyer in California will quickly realize, if they haven't already, that California is an "at-will" job state. This simply means that employees can leave their employment whenever they want without fear of retribution from their employers. Employers may also break ties with their employees without warning or excuse, even though they are doing well and have no other grievances with their employees.
At-will jobs give employers equal rights when it comes to hiring and firing workers, just as customers have the freedom to choose and refund purchases.
There are several exceptions to the at-will jobs rule, such as when you:
Have a membership in a labor union
You are a government employee
Have a written contract that specifies the length of your job (as with many professional athletes, for example)
Naturally, the at-will clause prohibits employers from firing workers for illegal reasons.
Public Policy Exemption
These at-will work regulations have a range of exceptions. The first is the public policy exemption, which kicks in if an employee refuses to break a statute or rule, commits perjury, or conspire with the employer to discriminate against a prospective employee based on their nationality, color, religion, age, sexual orientation, or gender. If any of these conditions are violated, a wrongful termination case may be filed under the public policy exception to at-will jobs.
This public policy exemption also applies if the harmed employee has filed a workers' compensation lawsuit. Section 132(a) of the California Labor Code expressly forbids an employer from firing or discriminating against an employee who files a worker's compensation claim. If the court determines that the breach occurred, the person in question could be entitled to monetary compensation for back pay, as well as damages for emotional distress and work reinstatement.
This exception for public policy also applies to corporate whistleblowers. This extension, however, only extends where the employee has legitimate concerns about health and safety, state or federal law violations, some kind of criminal behavior, and/or unethical business practices. Antitrust breaches, price gouging, and other unethical behavior on the part of the employer are examples.
Implied Contract Exemptions
Defining the precise terms of the employment contract is one of the most difficult aspects of constructing a wrongful termination case. To put it another way, in order for wrongful termination to be legal, the contract must have been violated. The fact that the state of California accepts both formal and implied employment agreements (written contracts) adds to the ambiguity (verbal agreements).
An "implied employment contract" is a non-written arrangement between an employee and their employer, according to California labor law. Instead, the contract is established by both parties' actions. This is still legally binding.
This implied contract, in the sense of California labor laws, effectively implies that the employer cannot fire the employee unless there is a compelling or justifiable reason.
In California, an implicit employment contract is an exception to at-will employment, and its terms may result in a wrongful termination lawsuit in California.
This implied contract may arise if the employer made clear claims about the job's protection before the employee approved it. In this case, the boss claimed that the employee in question would be given a permanent position if he or she did anything or met a condition. An implicit contract will be considered legally binding in the absence of a formal document.
A much more common type of implicit contract is found in the employee handbook, which goes beyond this verbal guarantee of a job or title. When an employer tells their employees that their rights and obligations are defined in the company's written handbook, the employer has entered into an implicit arrangement not to fire the employee as long as they meet the company's standards and perform their duties. The distribution of employee handbooks exposes the employer to civil responsibility and necessitates the use of justifiable cause to fire an employee. As a consequence of this implied contract, there is an implied, legal obligation not to terminate jobs unless there is a clearly specified transgression. In other terms, the handbook essentially acts as an implicit work contract.
The civil courts have a lot of leeway in interpreting these implicit contracts. To decide if an implicit contract of employment exists in a given situation, the court must consider all of the underlying circumstances. This means that in these situations, you'll need to hire an experienced and top-rated employment lawyers in California.
The majority of states, including California, have implemented this implicit contract exemption.
The Covenant of Good Faith
Another explanation for a wrongful termination case is when an employee is dismissed despite the presence of a "covenant of good faith." A covenant is a legal word that literally means "agreement." This good faith covenant is similar to the implicit contract exemption, but it goes a step further.
When the employee in question performs his or her job duties properly, the employer and employee enter into a bond of good faith. The covenant of good faith exception is broken if the employer terminates the job. In legal terms, "good faith" refers to a person or entity behaving in a case without malice and with the best interests of the other party in mind. This termination is often viewed as a breach of the good faith clause.
Consider the case of an employee who has been with an organization for a long time and is about to retire with full benefits. The employer fires this employee a few weeks before his or her retirement date. The business did not do so for a legal reason but rather to stop paying the full benefits. This will be considered a breach of the covenant of good faith in this situation.
Only a few states have agreed to follow the covenant of good faith doctrine. California, thankfully, is one of them.
Exemption for a written employment contract
The implied contract theory is essentially the polar opposite of this exception. When the employment arrangement between the employer and the employee is clear, it is valid. This indicates that the contract in question is written and legally binding.
This written contract exemption normally extends to upper management and/or business executives. When an employer provides a hired employee a term of employment based on a signed employment contract, both the employee and the employer must abide by the contract's terms. If an employee breaches any of these conditions, the employer has the right to terminate the working relationship.
If the employer, on the other hand, terminates the employee in breach of either of these employment contract conditions, the employee would have a clear and strong wrongful termination argument.
This exception for written contracts is valid in all 50 states.
What Is Constructive Discharge and How Does It Work?
"Constructive discharge" is the final exception to the at-will rule. This happens when an employer purposefully establishes a hostile and unsafe work atmosphere in which the employee has no choice but to leave. In situations where there is an implicit contract or a written employment contract, this constructive discharge can apply.
The employer in question must not expressly fire the employee under the positive discharge exception. Regardless of this, the employee's dismissal is also considered a case of wrongful firing. The employer is morally responsible for wrongful termination when he or she establishes unacceptable working conditions. The conditions may be created in an active or passive manner. In other words, an employer may either intentionally construct a hostile working atmosphere or actually allow one to grow by failing to monitor workplace conditions.
Both of these situations are actionable, whether passive or active. A professional wrongful termination lawyer may make the argument that the employer in question behaved maliciously in situations where the hostile work environment was deliberately developed. If the court finds that intentional intent was present, the damages paid would be much higher.
If the employee was aware of the unacceptable working conditions before starting their term of employment, the positive discharge exception does not apply. A wrongful termination lawsuit in California would not apply if the employee was aware of the hostile work climate but accepted the temporary job anyway. The constructive discharge must be shown to be in retribution for a complaint made by the employee.
Despite this regulation, our Employment Lawyers in Los Angeles might be able to help employees who have been fired for unusual or uncertain reasons. We will help you figure out whether a decision made under the guise of at-will jobs was simply based on discrimination or other illegal reasons for unfair termination.
Is it necessary for my boss to explain why I was fired?
Your employer is not obliged by law to justify why you were fired. While most employers provide an explanation, they frequently lie. Your boss would generally refuse to give you a reason or make one up if the real reason for your firing is illegal. "Poor results" or "policy breach" are two typical made-up excuses.
This fabricated excuse is called pretext if the boss made up a bogus reason for firing you or if colleagues who do the same thing are not typically fired. The word "pretext" refers to an employer's false excuse to justify an illegal termination. Such instances are as follows:
Since your boss refuses to say why you were fired, and you just returned from a four-month medical leave, we have reason to believe it was due to a physical or mental disability.
You were fired just as your pregnancy was beginning to show. We may safely presume that your pregnancy was the reason for your termination.
Prior to being fired, you were sexually assaulted. We may deduce that you were fired because you refused to agree to further abuse.
You were fired after raising questions about workplace safety, exposing an unethical procedure, or demanding overtime pay. It's possible that your boss fired you as a means of revenge.
It helps if you either know or expect the true reason for your firing when your boss gives you a reason. If the true reason for your firing isn't clear, a wrongful termination lawyer will assist you in discovering the facts.
Employers often dismiss employees for reasons that are unknown to the employee but are well-known to California Employment Law Attorney. Employees who take FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leave on a regular basis are one example. Although it is required by law for employers to provide FMLA leave, it is often inconvenient for them to do so. Since they can't legitimately inform the employee that FMLA leave was the reason for their firing, employers often concoct a non-illegal reason or justification.
Wrongful dismissal in violation of public policy
You cannot be dismissed from your position in California for violating public policy or employment laws.
Although not legally unconstitutional, dismissal or discharge that violates one or more basic public policy guidelines is referred to as a violation of public policy. In fact, this means that in some cases, the public policy prevents workers from being fired.
The following are examples of typical scenarios:
Wrongful dismissal for carrying out a legal duty
If you are legally obliged to perform a job (such as serving in the jury), your employer cannot fire you or otherwise punish you for acting legally.
Wrongful dismissal due to a refusal to violate the law
If your boss asks you to do anything you know is illegal, and you refuse, you cannot be fired for refusing to break the law. Your employee rights have been violated, and you are a victim of wrongful termination if you were fired for this reason.
Wrongful termination for disclosing a legal breach
You can alert your boss without fear of being fired if you think they have broken the law. This involves bringing breaches of health and safety laws to the notice of the authorities. What counts is that you submitted your report in good faith. It makes no difference if the infringement claim is later found to be incorrect.
Termination without cause because you were practicing a lawful or constitutional right
If you have a legal right to engage in a specific form of action (for example, political affiliation or freedom of speech), the employer cannot fire you or punish you for doing so.
If you are fired in certain conditions, you have most likely been fired in breach of public policy. Contact a Wrongful Termination Lawyer to take the first step in your case.
Wrongful dismissal in breach of employment laws
An employer's direct breach of state or federal employment law or regulations may also result in unfair termination. There are some of them:
State employment discrimination law
Collective bargaining law
An employment contract or employee agreement
Anti-retaliation employment law
Federal anti-discrimination law
Sexual harassment regulations
Knowing which laws have been broken in your case can be challenging due to the ambiguity of the relevant laws and regulations. We've gathered a range of tools on this site if you'd like to learn more before contacting us to get started.
Additionally, wrongful termination can also be an act of retaliation as defined in California workplace retaliation laws. This happens when employees are fired in an effort to get back at them for exercise their labor rights. That said, it's best to consult California employment attorneys before making your next move.
What to Do When You Are Terminated Unlawfully
If you think you were wrongfully dismissed, retain all of your employer's documents and contact a California wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible. Before your firing, you could have sent yourself job papers or sent written complaints to your boss from a personal email address.
Using a personal email address is advantageous because it helps you retain your documents' backups even though your boss disables your work email account. These records will also help you win your case by proving your employer's negligence.
Your job contract and employee handbook, for example, should be kept as much as possible. If you keep track of what happens at work on a regular basis, email them to yourself at a personal email address.
It's ideally better to meet with prescreened and best wrongful termination lawyers in Los Angeles before you're fired, and with the right guidance, you'll be able to accurately record the facts of your situation, making the true justification for your firing transparent and easier to prove.
Do I have a claim for Wrongful Termination?
How do you know if your case is solid? Good cases include a protected class, such as age, disability, gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, or an employer retaliating against a current or former employee for filing a protected complaint or engaging in legally protected conduct.
Employers also fabricate the reason for an employee's dismissal. The best situations are those in which an employee can disprove their employer's stated reason for the termination or in which the employer's stated reason is illogical. If your boss says your work has been removed, but you spent the last few weeks of your job preparing your replacement, it makes no sense.
Long-term jobs, with a few exceptions, typically allow for a stronger argument. Being fired from a job you've had for ten years is typically more complicated than being fired from a job you've had for a few weeks. A termination, rather than a failure to recruit or promote, is a better case scenario.
Of course, there are exceptions. It makes no difference how long an employee has served in a pregnancy discrimination situation. What counts is that the employer was aware of the employee's pregnancy before terminating her employment.
The same is true of cases of sexual assault. Even a one-week employee who has a sexually abusive boss will make a good case for sexual assault and positive discharge. Constructive discharge happens when an employee leaves because her employer does something that makes her feel sexually insecure, essentially forcing her to engage in a romantic relationship with her boss in order to maintain her job.
As a result, cases of pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment do not require long-term jobs to be effective. By far, the most convincing cases include any employer conduct that "shocks the conscience" — an action that is profoundly inhuman, callous, or immoral.
Sexual violence, without a doubt, shakes the conscience. The moral outrage of being fired for taking time off to care for an injured child is palpable. An employee's firing for revealing that they need time off for cancer care would be devastating, particularly if the employee was banking on being able to use his or her employer's funded health insurance and now can't afford it.
In wrongful termination proceedings, what kinds of damages are awarded?
Employees who have been wrongfully dismissed are entitled to a variety of damages. The most visible effect is the loss of past and future profits. One of the most important things you lose when you lose your job is your pay. As a consequence, if you've proven that you were wrongfully dismissed, your compensation should include missed pay or the salary you would have received if you hadn't been fired.
If you haven't found appropriate substitute work by the time the case goes to trial, you might be entitled to compensation for future missed income and benefits. You'd be entitled to the difference between what you used to make and what you now make if you've found lower-paying substitute work.
You will be entitled to damages for emotional distress in addition to lost income and benefits. This is typically the most important component of the case's damages. Psychological documents may be used to chart the mental distress in order to explain the damages.
You could be entitled to punitive damages if the employer does anything egregious and that action was taken by someone in a high-ranking position within the business. Punitive damages are based on an amount the court determines is relevant to punish the employer in a substantive way and the amount the employer may "feel," causing them to think twice before doing it again. For larger businesses, this figure may be very high.
An employee who is wrongfully terminated in California is also entitled to compensation for legal expenses and costs incurred during the case, in addition to past and future employment, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The legislation allows for one-way fee-shifting, meaning that the employee will be reimbursed for legal costs, but the employer cannot be reimbursed if the employer wins the case.
Understanding the deadline for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in California is complicated. Per state is in charge of determining how long wrongful firing claimants have to file civil litigation. The wrongful termination statute of limitations in California varies depending on the reason for the termination. If an employee is wrongfully terminated in California as a result of a breach of public policy, the employee has two years from the date of termination to file a complaint against their employer. When the unfair firing was the product of abuse or prejudice, the person who lost their job would be subject to a variety of deadlines. Typically, wrongful termination lawsuits in California based on prejudice or harassment are made under one of two statutes:
A wrongfully dismissed employee has 180 days from the date of termination to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. (EEOC). This formally kicks off the federal agency's investigation.
State statute, normally California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): If a local or state agency, such as California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), is available to assist wrongfully dismissed workers, the claim must be filed within 300 days of the termination date.
If a state or federal agency fails to address the issue in a timely manner, as decided by the wrongfully terminated employee or their counsel, they may be given a "right to sue" letter, allowing them to file a complaint in the proper court. Following the issuance of this document, the wrongfully dismissed employee will have 90 days to file a lawsuit in civil court.
What Compensations Can A Wrongful Firing Case Get You?
As a result of a wrongful termination case, you will be entitled to recover a variety of damages. The employer in question can decide to give you a settlement before the case even goes to trial, depending on the facts of the case. Accepting or rejecting this settlement is a matter of how much money you want in damages and how solid the evidence is that you were wrongfully terminated in California.
The damages in question would require back pay because wrongful termination is a form of unpaid wages litigation. Backpay includes any missed salaries as well as any employee benefits that were terminated as a result of the unfair firing. Benefits are considered a source of income, and as such, they are protected by an unpaid wages lawsuit.
This backpay can be measured and tested objectively. As a result, it's also known as "liquidated damages." You can, however, be entitled to monetary damages for your pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress. The measurement of these damages is more complex than unpaid salaries, as it will be based on your legal team's expertise and experience.
If your case is successful, the court can order your former employer to reimburse you for your attorney's fees and court costs. Finally, the court can order the former employer to pay "punitive damages." They are not intended to reimburse you; rather, they are intended to serve as a corrective and/or punitive measure to ensure that the employer in question does not repeat the unlawful action.
Compensation in wrongful termination cases varies depending on a number of factors, including the financial and emotional damages you suffered.
The following are some examples of unfair termination damages:
Wages and profits lost: These can include pay you would have received if you hadn't been fired, such as overtime and other unpaid wages.
Compensation for lost benefits, such as insurance, retirement, and stock options, will be included in the damages.
Emotional distress or "pain and suffering": In some circumstances, damages for emotional distress caused as a result of the termination can be recoverable.
Punitive damages: If your employer behaved egregiously in terminating your job, a jury could award punitive damages as a means of punishing the defendant.
Attorney's fees and court costs: Attorney's fees and court costs can be included in the lawsuit.
Do I search for new employment when my Wrongful Termination case is being resolved?
Yes, if the case is still ongoing, you can look for new jobs because the law allows you to try to mitigate the harm incurred by your employer. In practice, this means that you must keep track of your attempts to find new jobs. The following are some things to keep track of:
The date and place of your job search activities
Any documents produced as a result of the process (resumes, cover letters, emails, etc.)
Any communications made during the process should include their name, title, and phone number (agencies, potential employers, etc.)
Job names (if any) that you've asked for
For each other's next moves or outcomes
The bottom line is that you must make an attempt to pursue new work and, even if you are unable to do so, you must record that you tried. You are not obligated to take a position that is considerably below your qualifications or pay rate, but you should not turn down suitable work opportunities with comparable pay.
And suppose you are able to find suitable new jobs. In that case, you might be entitled to the difference in compensation, as well as emotional distress damages, legal costs, and, in some cases, punitive damages.
Find the top Employment Attorney in Los Angeles for Wrongful Termination Cases
Wrongful termination and employment law can be hard to navigate, considering all the caveats and exceptions you have to consider when looking at a specific claim. Your case is also likely to be unique and will have variables that don't always appear in examples.
Finding an employment lawyer will help you through this confusing process. 1000Attorneys.com provides referral services that match you up with an employment attorney in Los Angeles after a free initial consultation. This is to make sure that you are referred to the most fitting employment attorney to handle your case.
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