California Wrongful Termination Lawyers
Getting fired stinks. Getting fired for an unlawful reason is even worse. You have a right to defend your rights. It is important to us that you succeed. Our California wrongful termination lawyers can help. Call us today for a consultation.
Fighting Back Against Wrongful Termination
You likely work at a job that’s considered at-will work. For a job like that, your employer can fire you for no reason at all. However, they cannot fire you for a wrong and unlawful reason. You can typically look to your employee handbook to find out what kind of worker you are classified as. That being said you are protected from your employer’s wrongful termination.
Some employees will tell you why they are letting you go. They don’t have to. If they have a reason, such as your job performance or similar reasons, that would be considered firing an at-will employee “for cause.”
You cannot be fired legally, if it is a reason that violates the law or an employee contract. Reasons of illegal nature include:
- Retaliation against your complaint
- A violation of laws of anti-discrimination
- Firing you as a way to sexually harass you
- A violation of labor laws
The best way to determine if you have a case is to talk to our California wrongful termination lawyers.
Your lawyer is going to want to look through the evidence of your claim. We need documents from your time at your position, including your employee file.
This might give us a clear reason why you were fired. It also may point to an illegal reason. Your lawyer will want to collect any evidence that proves you were illegally fired. That means looking into your performance and reviews. We will look into finding out if you were treated differently.
It would be suspicious, for example, if you were fired because of poor performance but had rave reviews during your employment. That’s what we’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Wrongful Termination Questions
Do I have a wrongful termination case if I was fired without notice?
There are times when I talk to an employee, who, out of the blue, was terminated. There was no notice. They were just asked to come into a room and, at that point, they were being told they were being terminated. Under California law, employees are considered what’s called at-will, that you can be terminated for any reason, as long as it’s not an unlawful reason, and there’s no notice requirement. While, typically, you as the employee could quit today and not show up tomorrow, an employer can do the same thing to you. They could terminate you today with the expectation that they never see you again. With regards to the amount of notice that they’re required to give, there is actually no notice requirement under California law.
It’s important to note that if they do terminate you, you’re entitled to all your wages up until that point. If they terminate you, they should have a check ready to go with all your wages, including that day’s wage. If they don’t do that, you might be entitled to what’s called Labor Code §203 penalties, which is a waiting time penalty. Also, it should be important to note that if you got terminated out of the blue, you stop and think as to why you were terminated. If recently you had told them that you were going to go out on medical leave or you had complained about conduct that you believe was unlawful or unsafe, and you feel there was a reason for your termination that very well could violate California law, you should talk to an attorney. Don’t be nervous if you feel like it’s going to be your word against their word.
If you believe that you were terminated out of the blue, or that you were terminated with notice, and you believe it was for an unlawful reason, and you feel like it was just your word against their word, don’t let that be an impediment for you to talk to an attorney. If I can answer any questions related to your recent termination, please feel free to give the firm a call.
Can I be fired if I have a contract with my employer?
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.
How do I choose the right attorney for my wrongful termination case?
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.
What should I do if I was wrongfully terminated?
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.
Can I sue my employer if I was wrongfully terminated?
I’m often told by a potential client that they were wrongfully terminated and they want to sue their employer, or, at the very least, they want to know what their rights are regarding their former employer. We hear the term wrongful termination a lot, just in our daily lives, whether you’re an attorney or not. For the attorney, it’s important for us to slow down and try to figure out if it was not only wrongful, but also unlawful. Was it an unlawful termination? There’s a lot of statues in California that protect employees. Those statutes prohibit an employer from retaliating against employees and discriminating against employees, so it’s important to realize that you do have a lot of protections.
Sometimes you need to figure out whether or not something is just wrong or unfair , or whether it was unlawful. Even if, as you sit there right now, you think, well, I don’t know if it was unlawful, it’s important for you to get those questions answered, because you very well could have rights that you never contemplated. They could have violated that law.
If I can help you in answering any of those questions, whether or not you ever bring a lawsuit or whether or not you actually file a claim for wrongful termination, it’s important for you to have those questions answered. If I can do any of that, give me a call at the office and I’ll walk you through the process.
Can I collect unemployment benefits if I was 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.
Should I look for another job during a wrongful termination case?
A lot of times when I meet with a new client after they’ve been terminated and we’re going to take their case, the question is, “Now what? Where do I go from here?” One of the things that we discuss is you needing to take care of yourself and your family. I encourage people to file for unemployment. The fact that your employer has terminated you doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to unemployment. In fact, if you were wrongfully terminated, the employer shouldn’t be able to wrongfully terminate and claim that you’re not entitled to unemployment.
After you file for unemployment, the next step is to start looking for work, assuming you’re able to look for work. If they’re terminating you while you’re out on medical leave, continue with your medical care. Take care of yourself. Get healthy. Once you’re healthy enough to work, or if you were never out because of medical issues, start looking for work. The law expects you to find comparable work. Comparable work is work that’s similar in wage, similar in benefits, and similar in location. While you theoretically don’t have to take any job that comes along, most of my clients want to work, they need to work, and they’ll look for work. While your case is pending, look for work and document that work that you did.
If you are able to find work and it’s not perfect, it pays less or the benefits are less, those are one of the remedies that we’ll seek – at your old job, you made X; now you make a little bit less. Your old job had health benefits and this new job doesn’t. It took you six months to find a job that was comparable. For those six months, you’re entitled to that compensation to make you whole.
If you get wrongfully terminated, the expectation that you do go find comparable work, to the degree that comparable work isn’t comparable, we’ll find an attorney that will fight for you. Hopefully you can find a better job, one that pays better, has better benefits, so that could be at least one bright issue after being terminated from a job that you didn’t want to be terminated from. If I can answer any of those questions, feel free to give me a call.
What types of damages are available in a wrongful termination case?
Last month we were trying a case in San Bernardino Superior Court, and in that case we were seeking specific damages. The reality is, for most of our cases, we’re seeking very similar, if not the same, damages. In a wrongful termination case, those damages are typically characterized in these categories. One, emotional distress. What was the emotional distress of losing the job? What impact did it have on your daily life, your monthly life? The sleepless nights, the anger, the frustration, the self-doubt – all of those issues are part of your emotional distress, and we ask a jury to compensate you for that. It’s not exactly clear as to what that is, but we do ask the jury to put a dollar figure on that. That includes both past emotional distress, and we also ask them about future emotional distress. The impact that the termination had on you or will have on you in the future is called future emotional distress.
In the same way that we ask for emotional distress, we also ask for back wages and front wages. This economic award basically says that you used to make X, and now you make Y, and that the difference is what you’re entitled to. You used to have healthcare or health insurance, you used to have vacation, you used to have all these other benefits that you no longer have. Maybe by the grace of God, you found a new position that pays better, but it took you six months to find that job. You’re entitled to that wage loss of those six months. Again, you’re entitled to that emotional distress for not having that job for the six months and the uncertainty that caused.
Depending on the type of employer, we also seek punitive damages, an award to punish the employer to make sure that they don’t do that again. Lastly, if we’re successful at trial, we’ll also bring a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs, basically saying that you shouldn’t have to pay for attorneys’ fees and costs, that that should be borne by the employer. If you’ve been wrongfully terminated and you want to have a conversation as to what damages are available if you bring a lawsuit, I’m always happy to discuss those issues with you. If you have any questions, feel free to give the firm a call and we can discuss. Thank you.
Call Our California Wrongful Termination Lawyers Today
You don’t have to put up with being fired for unlawful reasons. It’s your right to bring a claim against your employer. Our California wrongful termination lawyers are here to help. Call us today! We will protect your rights.
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