Updated: Nov 11
A Guide From The Los Angeles Employment Lawyer Referral Service
To be wrongfully terminated in California is to be fired for an illegal cause, this includes violation of federal anti-discrimination laws or a breach of contract.
Specifically, an employee cannot be fired for the following reasons:
Retaliation against employees
Marital status discrimination
Religious beliefs discrimination
National origin discrimination
It is also against the law to fire an employee in California because they filed a legal complaint against the employer, or because the employee reported illegal activity at the workplace as a "whistleblower". Being fired because of these actions is considered "retaliation" under the law.
Can You Get Fired for No Reason in California?
California is classified as an at-will employment state. What this means is that your employer can terminate you for any reason and at any time with or without reason.
If your employer doesn’t like you as a person, doesn't have enough work for you, thinks you work too slow, they can fire you at any given time.
Most employee handbooks include what at-will employment is, and also requires an employee to sign an acknowledgment of their at-will status.
However, an employee working on an at-will basis may have a valid claim ONLY if he/she was terminated for reasons that are against the law under state and federal law.
5 Steps To Report Wrongful Termination in California:
Gather Documentation: Gather all the documentation and evidence necessary that supports your claim of wrongful termination. This can include emails, statements from coworkers or other witnesses, or other notes that you took detailing all instances where you were discriminated against by your employer;
Speak to Human Resources: Make you HR department aware of the situation and your belief that you were wrongfully terminated. This is particularly helpful because it not only shows that you attempted to seek resolution on your own but it's also documented proof that will support your claim;
Speak to a Lawyer Who Specializes in Employment Law: Make sure you seek legal advice a soon as you get wrongfully terminated from your job. Your Los Angeles Employment Lawyer will guide you and help developing a plan of action to make for a strong claim that will stand in court. Make sure you find a California Employment Lawyer with a clean record, great reviews, a valid license to practice law and someone with a proven track record in wrongful termination claims. Find the closest California Wrongful Termination lawyer here.
File a Claim with the EEOC or DFEH: The next step is to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Your lawyer will take care of all the paperwork. After receiving your claim, they will contact your employer and notify them of the charges and an investigation will begin. Sometimes, you may be required to file with the EEOC first and try to find a remedy through that agency before you can file a lawsuit;
File Civil Lawsuit: If the EEOC or DFEH decides not to pursue your claim against your employer, or if you don't agree with the resolution they suggest, they will provide you with a Notice of Right to Sue. This will then allow your wrongful termination lawyer to file a private civil lawsuit against your employer in a Los Angeles court. You must file your lawsuit within 90 days following the Notice from the EEOC.
How Much Is A Wrongful Termination Settlement in California?
The settlement amount of each wrongful termination case in California varies and depends a lot on your lawyer's ability to seek the maximum compensation possible. The compensation amount of a wrongful termination case also depends on the following factors:
The employer: Some employers are small and have limited financial resources, for example: if you file a wrongful termination case against a Fortune 500 company you can expect a much bigger settlement than if your case is against a small local restaurant.
Punitive damages: This is when punitive damages are available, a good example is if your case is based on disability discrimination. The value of your settlement will be significantly larger. Age discrimination, on the other hand, does not allow recovery of punitive damages.
Attorney and court fees: This depends on the total court fees and your attorney's fees. Make sure you find a wrongful termination attorney who charges reasonable attorney's fees.
Back pay: The amount of money you would have been paid had you not been wrongfully terminated, this amount will be calculated from the date you were fired.
Front pay: The amount of money you would have made until finding a new job, this only applies if the employee cannot be reinstated.
Compensatory damages: Out-of-pocket expenses and other compensatory damages caused by workplace discrimination or harassment to which you as an employee were exposed.
Federal laws in the U.S. limit the amount of punitive and compensatory damages in a California wrongful termination claims. They cannot exceed $300,000 depending on the size of your employer’s business and other factors. Your wrongful termination attorney will be able to assess the business, it's assets, your claim and give you an estimate.