Getting fired from a job is an unpleasant experience, especially if you believe your termination was unfair. However, that does not mean that termination is illegal. Specific elements need to exist to prove that your termination was illegal rather than only unpleasant.
Many federal and local laws prevent employers from terminating their employees for reasons such as race, disability or gender. Legislation like the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act keep workers safe from wrongful termination based on issues beyond their control. Some law provisions protect employees who file complaints about wrongdoings and whistleblowing.
Most states, including California, practice at-will employment, meaning employers can take adverse action, including pay cuts and reducing paid time off for legal reasons. Consequently, this law allows workers to quit freely without incurring legal liabilities.
When unsure whether your firing was legal, consult an experienced wrongful termination lawyer for clarification. Read on to learn all you need to know about wrongful termination.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Although California is an at-will employment state, it has some of the most robust protections for workers. In this state, wrongful termination means violating specific public policies contained in regulations, statutes or constitutional provisions when firing or laying off workers.
Wrongful terminations often result from whistleblowing activities and violations of contracts or public policies. Some employers illegally fire workers who file compensation claims or report work injuries.
Examples of Circumstance that Qualify as Unlawful Firing
The law interprets various situations as wrongful termination. They include:
Discrimination is one of the top reasons for wrongful termination claims. Employers can face legal action and liabilities for termination based on age, gender or disability. Discrimination against nationality, ethnicity and religion is also a violation of civil rights.
The law prohibits employers from firing individuals because of medical conditions and pregnancy. It protects the workers’ rights to express their political beliefs and participate in political activities.
Other than wrongful termination, discrimination can happen in other employment activities like hiring and promotion.
Retaliation refers to employers taking adverse employment actions against workers for exercising their legally protected rights. This is a common issue cited in wrongful terminations in Los Angeles. All employees have rights. For example, workplace injuries allow workers to file for compensation, while some medical conditions entitle them to time off.
Employees should work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. They are entitled to call out illegal wage practices and can become witnesses in U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations.
When employees exercise their rights, some employers may retaliate against their actions.
Typical adverse employment actions include:
- Firing or letting workers go.
- Demotion to a lower-ranking role.
- Reducing pay or work hours.
- Excluding workers from activities that are available to others.
- Reassigning or rescheduling duties.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against legal actions by their workers.
Violation of Public Policy
Claims revolving around public policy violations relate to retaliation claims. These claims also align with state law provisions.
It is unlawful for an employer to fire a worker because of:
- Refusal to perform illegal acts.
- Performing legal obligations.
- Enjoying legal privileges.
Employees enjoy legal protection against termination when reporting potential law violations of public importance.
Breach of Contract Claims
Although California practices at-will employment, workers and employers can choose to enter employment contracts freely. Some contracts cover specific timeframes for specific jobs. Contracts usually guarantee employment and can highlight some situations that can lead to contract termination.
Understanding your rights is essential whether you are an at-will employee or have a contract. You may sue the employer for wrongful termination if the termination violates the employment contract.
Firing without Notice
In California, at-will employment laws allow legal termination of employment without notice. You as an employee can quit today and fail to show up tomorrow, while an employer can fire you today and expect never to see you again.
If an employer chooses to fire you, they should provide all wages until the day they terminate employment. This includes wages for the day you get fired.
It is essential to consider possible reasons for your termination when fired abruptly. If you feel that your reason for termination violates California law, you should consult an attorney.
How to Respond to Wrongful Termination
Do you think you are a victim of unfair treatment or illegal firing? It would be best to talk to an employment attorney. When choosing a law firm or attorney, consider if they focus on California labor and employment laws. Also, ascertain whether the law firm has the necessary resources. Finally, investigate whether they are trial attorneys.
Considering these factors ensures that you have the right expertise to handle the case from inception to the end.
Filing Wrongful Termination Claims
Beginning a wrongful termination lawsuit may seem like a daunting task. Nevertheless, talking to an employment attorney will let you know if you can pursue a case.
Your attorney may ask questions such as:
- When did you start employment?
- How long did you work for the employer?
- How and why did the employment end?
A crucial factor to note is that some terminations may be unfair but legal. No matter how wrongful it felt, there are legal grounds for employment termination.
After contacting an employment attorney, you should collect relevant evidence pertaining to your case. This includes all written, electronic and recorded documents that relate to your performance and termination.
Remember to include any handwritten notes, memos and even social media posts that can help strengthen your case. Note the names and contacts of any person who can help back up your claims.
If you are unsure about how to collect evidence, our attorneys offer excellent information-gathering skills to help build a strong case.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Since the law imposes statutes of limitations on legal actions, you do not have unlimited time to file a claim. Depending on the predication, you have two years to file a wrongful termination claim.
However, some claims, such as those based on whistleblower violations, require swift action. After filing, the case proceeds to trial, settlement or dismissal. Having an experienced wrongful termination lawyer will reduce the odds of dismissal.
Get Legal Advice
Wrongful termination is an experience that nobody should have to face. Sadly, a considerable number of employers get away with wrongful termination. They often assume that workers will not pursue any legal actions against them, which is usually right.
However, a seasoned wrongful termination lawyer can help determine whether your termination was unlawful and if you deserve compensation. Do you feel you were wrongfully terminated? Consider consulting a seasoned employment attorney to establish whether you were terminated illegally.