Getting fired from your job, especially if it was your main or sole source of income, is an employee’s worst nightmare. There are plenty of reasons why someone may be terminated from their job. However, in some cases, the reasons may be unfair or even outrightly illegal. California is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that an employer can fire an employee at any time and without any reason or prior notice.
However, employers are not allowed to do so if it violates employment laws, the contract of employment, or the general principles of public policy.
If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated from your job, our experienced Studio City wrongful termination lawyers at Fraigun Law Group can help you recover your job or secure compensation for your damages. Get in touch with our employment law team today at 818-981-1800 to schedule a free consultation.
California Wrongful Termination Laws
The state of California follows the at-will doctrine. This means that you, as an employee, are free to leave your job at any time. However, this law also gives the employer the power to terminate an employee at any time for legal reasons or none at all.
However, state and federal laws provide certain protections to at-will employees including:
Protection Against Discrimination
Under federal employment law, an employer can not fire you based on certain protected characteristics including race, age, gender, citizenship, disability, national origin, religion, and genetic information. California state law also prohibits the employer from firing an employee based on political affiliation, gender identity, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, marital status, medical condition, and status as a victim of domestic abuse.
Protection Against Retaliation
California state law protects employees against retaliation from their employer for participating in protected activity like reporting a suspected violation of state/federal law, filing a discrimination claim, and refusing to engage in illegal activity. An employer is also prohibited from firing an employee in retaliation for their participation in an investigation into the company’s activities.
Breach of Contract
If during your hiring you entered into a contract with your employer that defines the specific reasons or the exact manner in which you can be terminated and the employer violates their part of the agreement, they can be sued for breach of contract. The law also recognizes implied contracts. These can arise when a company has an employee handbook that stipulates how and when may be terminated.
An implied contract can also arise based on an employer’s statements or actions. However, this type of breach of contract can be difficult to prove and the courts will have to take into account numerous factors to determine whether an implied contract actually existed. These can include assurances of permanent or long-term employment, assurances of continued employment, the duration of your employment, and so on.
Employers are prohibited from firing employees for doing something that serves the public’s best interests. This includes refusing to take part in illegal or unethical activity, carrying out a public duty, or exercising their legal rights.
In this regard, an employer in the state of California cannot terminate you from taking some time off to serve on a jury, military, or the National Guard. They can not also fire you for taking a pregnancy disability leave (under California state law, pregnant employees can take a four-month pregnancy disability leave).
It is also illegal for an employer to terminate an employee for exercising their right to file a workers’ compensation claim for an injury they suffered in the workplace or in the course of their duties. The employer is also prohibited from firing an employee for alerting the relevant authorities of the public about a wrongful or illegal activity going on in the workplace.
Protection Against Defamation
California state law protects you against false and malicious statements about you made by your employer that end up hurting your chances of securing a new job or causing you to lose a job. To be successful in your defamation claim, you need to prove that the employer (i) made an inaccurate statement about you and (ii) did so with malicious intent, (iii) conveyed this information to at least one person, and (iv) you suffered harm as a result.
What Are Unfair Workplace Practices?
Unfair treatment in the workplace is quite common and it comes in various forms. It is important to note that while most unfair workplace practices are against the law, some are just unethical and there is no legal remedy for them. Here are some examples of illegal workplace practices:
- Refusing to hire an applicant based on a protected characteristic (e.g. race, age, or sex).
- Exposing an employee to workplace harassment due to their status in a protected class.
- Inferior pay and benefits due to the employee’s status in a protected class.
- Failure to provide adequate accommodations for disabled employees.
- Excluding employees from important company meetings, training programs, and meaningful growth opportunities.
- Laying off or demoting employees based on their status in a protected class.
- Implementing workplace policies that are unfavorable to a certain group in a protected class.
- Unfair job transfers based on the employee’s status in a protected class.
What Steps Should I Take After a Wrongful Termination?
If you believe that your California employer wrongfully terminated you from your job, there are a number of steps you need to take to protect your legal rights:
Gather Information and Evidence
If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully terminated, your first step immediately after the firing should be to collect as much information and evidence as possible that can help prove this claim. These include eyewitness accounts, emails, documents, files, video footage, etc. Also, make sure to note down your account of events and the situation to help strengthen the evidence collected and to serve as a memory aid.
Consult an Experienced Studio City Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Your next step should be to get in touch with an attorney who will expertly assess your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Wrongful termination cases can be extremely complex and challenging to handle on your own – you need all the legal help you can get.
Avoid Social Media During this Period
The last thing you want when dealing with a wrongful termination case is to provide your employer and their attorney with anything that may help your case. What you say publicly may end up seriously harming your claim.
File a Claim
If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully terminated and are looking to take legal action, you need to do so as possible. Please note that you have 180 days from the date of termination to file a complaint at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your attorney will advise you on the deadlines for filing wrongful termination claims.
How Does the California Wrongful Termination Complaint Process Work?
The complaint process is a bit complex, which is why you need to hire an experienced wrongful termination lawyer. They will ensure that your claim is filed properly and within the set deadlines. Wrongful termination claims based on discrimination are typically filed at the EEOC.
The EEOC Investigates Your Claim
The EEOC will conduct an investigation into your case and if they determine that you have a valid case, your ex-employer will be served with a formal notice. It should then be filed with the court clerk.
The Litigation Process Begins
Before the actual trial, the case goes through several stages including the discovery process. Here, both sides share all the relevant documents and evidence that will be used during the trial.
Here, both sides interview each other as well as witnesses in the case. A court reporter records the depositions. Transcripts of these depositions are then provided to both sides during the trial.
Trial or Out-of-Court Settlement
The majority of wrongful termination claims are usually settled out of court. An attorney will be able to advise you on whether you should settle or take the case to trial.
How Much Compensation Will I Get for Wrongful Termination?
There is no straightforward answer to how much you can expect to receive in your wrongful termination claim. This will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Here are some of the common types of damages that you may recover in a successful claim:
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Legal fees
- Punitive damages (there is no cap on the amount of punitive damages awardable in California)
Contact an Experienced Studio City Wrongful Termination Attorney!
Losing a job can be incredibly distressing and worrying. However, when you’ve been unfairly or illegally terminated, you need to take quick action to safeguard your rights and future. Under federal and California state laws, you are protected against wrongful termination. If you suspect that your employer has violated any of these laws, you need to get in touch with an experienced Studio City wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible.
Our highly skilled wrongful termination attorneys at Fraigun Law Group have years of experience tackling wrongful termination cases and can help you get justice and the financial compensation that you deserve. Call our Studio City offices today at 818-981-1800 to schedule a free initial consultation.