Are you filing an employment claim in California? Read our 4 wrongful termination tips that may help your case, then give us a call today!
1) Choosing the Right Attorney
We recently had a case that went all the way through trial. We spent two years with the person, getting to know her claims and getting to know her case, getting to know her child, getting to know her family, and then spending three weeks with her at trial, and getting a verdict that made her whole. We received a nice letter. I received a handwritten thank you note from her about what the firm meant to her. When I look back at the case, it reminds me how important it is that you look for a firm that can take care of you from the day that they pick up the phone call, all the way through to the end.
Not all cases end in a verdict. Not all cases go to a jury. A lot of cases settle. If you’re looking to hire a law firm, I encourage you to look, at least, at these factors. One, do they focus on California labor and employment law? Is that what they focus in? Is that what they focus in? Is that what they spend researching, and is that their expertise? It can include both workers’ compensation and wrongful termination. It can include retaliation. It can include labor law issues. Is what the purpose of the firm there to exist is to represent employees and only employees?
The next issue is, in addition to having that expertise, do they have the resources? Does the firm have the ability to go the entire way? Do they have the attorneys that can be put on a case to match the fire power of the defense? If we need attorneys in two, three different places, or two or three different states at one time, do they have the ability to do that? If they need depositions in Florida, does it stretch the firm to get out to Florida to go do the deposition? If you want ten people deposed, does the law firm have the ability to fund that litigation so it’s not a burden on you?
The last issue is whether or not they’re actually trial attorneys. You’d be surprised how many times people hire an attorney only to find out, or maybe never to find out, that the attorney never tried the case. Make sure that you have the expertise that can take the case the minute it walks in, all the way to the end.
If you have any questions about the process, about the selection of an attorney, I’m always happy to discuss those issues. Feel free to give us a call. I’ll answer any questions that you may have.
2) Employment Contract Law
While the vast majority of employees in California don’t have contracts, there are some employees in California that actually do have contracts. Some of those contracts are for specific time periods: one year, or for a specific job. The question comes up as to if they can terminate that contract. It really is a fact-intensive question about reading the contract and trying to figure out whether or not the employer could have you stop working, and whether or not that has an impact on whether or not they have to pay you out for the rest of the contract or for some specific period of time in the future. Sometimes, the contract have just cause provisions that say if they terminate you for just cause, they can cancel the contract. What’s clear in California is that, regardless of whether or not you have an employment contract or you’re considered at-will, all employees, both contract employees and at-will employees, are protected under California law from wrongful termination, unlawful harassment, and discrimination.
If you have a contract or you’re an at-will employee, it’s important for you to understand what your rights are. There’s a time in which, at the end of your employment, your supervisor or HR wants you to sign another agreement called a separation agreement, in which they’re going to offer you money. Sometimes it’s two weeks, sometimes it’s a month, and sometimes it’s more. Understand that, if they’re doing that, they’re not just giving you money— they want you to release your claims. In fact, if you sign that agreement and you take that money, you very well could be releasing the company for any and all claims. Those claims could include wage claims for them improperly paying you while you worked there and could also include a wrongful termination. They want you to sign off on your claims so that you can never sue them again.
If you’re being presented with an agreement at the end of your employment, it’s important for you to understand what rights you have and what rights you may be giving up. If you sign a contract at the beginning of your employment, please understand that doesn’t prevent you from seeking legal remedies outside of those contracts. I encourage you to talk to a law firm about your rights. If I can be of assistance, please feel free to give the office a call and we can discuss those matters.
3) Filing a Claim
I spend a lot of time talking to potential clients about the fact that they felt like they were wrongfully terminated from their employer. We talk about what happened at work – when did they start working there? How long did they work there? How did their employment end, and why did their employment end? It’s important to note that in California law, it is unlawful to wrongfully terminate somebody for an unlawful reason. Sometimes terminations are just unfair. Sometimes, you work for a supervisor that is unkind, arbitrary, irrational, and they terminate you. Not every time that you get terminated, despite how wrongful it felt or how wrongful it truly was, is it necessarily unlawful.
We spend a lot of the time identifying those claims in which the termination actually violated California law or federal law. If we can identify a statute or statutes that were violated, then we’re able to articulate that the termination was actually wrongful and we’ll bring a claim called wrongful termination and violation of public policy. That claim is usually brought with the various other claims under California Labor Code. Those include the Fair Employment Housing Act, if you got terminated as a result of a protected class or conduct, or were subject to harassment based on gender, race, or disability.
Not all terminations in California allow you to bring a lawsuit. Not even all wrongful terminations allow you to bring a lawsuit. It’s really important for you to have an attorney that can sit you down and identify whether or not your termination was unlawful. If you have questions about a recent termination and you would just like to know your rights, always feel free to give us a call here at the office. I’m more than willing to talk to you about those issues.
4) Collecting Unemployment Benefits After Being Fired
One issues that comes up when an employee was terminated is whether or not they can collect unemployment benefits. In California, the standard as to whether or not you can file for unemployment benefits is actually a pretty employee-friendly standard that relates to whether or not you engaged in misconduct while at work. That standard is going to be read rather narrowly. Just because you got terminated from your employment, doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to unemployment benefits.
If you’ve been terminated, especially if you’ve been terminated for what you believe is an unlawful conduct, it’s important for you to still apply for unemployment. I would encourage you, if you file for unemployment, to talk to an attorney before you do that. If you already had and there’s an interview coming up, and they want to interview as to the reasons for your termination, you at least have the advice of counsel as to what you may focus in on or not focus in on. The fact that they tell you this is the reason that you’re being terminated isn’t necessarily the reason that you believe that you were terminated. If you need assistance in articulating to the unemployment board as to why you’re entitled to unemployment benefits, feel free to give us a call, especially if you’ve been terminated for what you believe is an unlawful reason.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions? After reading our 4 wrongful termination tips that may help your case, contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
We can help get your life back on track.
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