Learn what to do when wrongfully terminated from your workplace in this article for guidance. Then, contact our California attorneys today.
1) Choosing the Best Attorney
If you’re looking to hire a law firm, look at the following factors in this article. 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.
2) Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim
It’s important for you to talk to your attorney about what happened at work – when did you start working there? How long did you work there? How did your employment end, and why did your 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.
Attorneys should spend a lot of the time identifying those claims in which the termination actually violated California law or federal law. If a statute or statutes that were violated can be identified, then an attorney is able to articulate that the termination was actually wrongful and 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.
3) Fired Without Notice
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.
4) 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.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions about what to do when wrongfully terminated? Contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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