California Wrongful Termination
Bringing wrongful termination cases can be a daunting feat: you’re often pitted against large employers, powerful people, and a complex legal system. But with the right California wrongful termination lawyers, the process is manageable, and you can receive justice and due compensation. Call one of our expert wrongful termination lawyers in California today for a free consultation to determine how you can find justice!
Were you wrongfully terminated?
Not every employee discharge, even when arbitrary or unfair, is considered “wrongful” under the law. Rather, only certain illegal reasons for termination will give rise to a wrongful termination claim. The main illegal reasons for termination in California include discrimination or harassment based on a protected class, and retaliation.
Discrimination occurs when you’re treated differently because of a protected class like race, religion, national origin, gender, age, etc. An example of this might look like a woman with a history of rave performance reviews being fired for “poor work performance” shortly after revealing her pregnancy to her boss.
Harassment is severe and pervasive mistreatment based on membership in a protected class. This can come in many forms, like the use of racial epithets, sexual misconduct, threats, etc. The legal standard for “severe and pervasive” is a high bar and can be tricky to understand, so it is important to seek an experienced wrongful termination lawyer to help guide you through such a case.
Finally, retaliation occurs in the context of wrongful termination when an employer fires an employee for reporting illegal activity to someone with a supervisory role. For example, if Employer was not allowing its employees to take full meal breaks, and then fired Employee for complaining to her supervisor that this practice was illegal, this would be retaliation. Of course, there are nuances that require the expertise of skilled California wrongful termination lawyers.
When is a termination legal?
Not every unfair termination is illegal. In the United States, most jobs are considered “at-will,” which means both the employee and employer can end the employment relationship at any time without notice, and for virtually any reason. Often, people feel wronged by their former employer and want to take legal recourse, but unfortunately no legal violation occurred. The following are some of the common situations where employees feel wronged, but no wrongful termination took place:
Termination Without Warning: Employers sometimes fire employees with no advanced notice and no opportunity to correct alleged misbehaviors or other employment shortcomings. While this can put the employee in a difficult and stressful financial position, this is allowed under the general rule of “at-will” employment. While there are exceptions, generally a termination with no warning does not make a good wrongful termination claim.
Violation of Company Policy: Often, a potential client will call in because they were fired for doing something that was consistent with the company’s policies. For example, maybe a company has a policy to follow a certain chain of command when finalizing client proposals, but an employee was fired for a time delay caused by waiting for approval from the higher-ups on that chain of command. While we certainly agree this was likely unfair, absent discriminatory or retaliatory intentions, it is likely a legal termination.
False Reasoning: Employers usually give some sort of reason for a person’s termination, and when that reason is apparently fabricated, former employees might try to pursue a wrongful termination claim. However, even false reasons, so long as they are not used to disguise discrimination or retaliation, are usually valid reasons for termination according to California law. For instance, if an employer discharges an employee, a cashier, for giving employee discounts to customers she preferred, that is a valid termination, even if the cashier never gave out such discounts.
To fully understand whether your termination was legal or not, it is advised you speak with a wrongful termination lawyer who can assess your former employer’s actions to see if they were lawful.
How Much Money Comes from a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
This question is difficult to answer with specificity because it varies widely on a case-by-case basis. Damages that arise directly from a wrongful termination are usually: (1) emotional distress damages, and (2) economic damages. Emotional distress damages are exactly what they sound like: money to pay for the emotional toll the wrongful termination had on you and your life. The jury determines these damages by taking into consideration the egregiousness of the termination and the lasting impacts it has had on the former employee’s mental health. Because this is so fact-intensive and differs extensively from one set of facts to another, it is nearly impossible to guess the worth of your case early into the litigation process.
The second kind of damages are economic damages which includes lost wages (both past and future). For example, if you made $60,000 annually before your wrongful termination, and you’re able to find a comparable job about 4 months later making $50,000, you may be entitled to those 4 months’ pay, as well as the difference between your annual salaries. Job benefits also fit into this equation, further complicating the calculations and making the final damages award differ.
Finally, we often pursue punitive damages to deter companies from continuing the same patterns of misconduct, as well as attorney’s fees and costs so your award is not lessened.
Be Patient in Your Pursuit of Justice!
The California wrongful termination litigation process can be tedious and long. Often, trial dates aren’t set for two or more years from the date the lawsuit begins, and a lot of litigation between opposing parties and in front of the judge happens in between that time. It is important to enter wrongful termination cases with patience so as to avoid frustration. Simply navigating the court procedures and steps of a lawsuit is overwhelming. Remind yourself that practiced wrongful termination lawyers have done this many times before and can help you feel secure about your case, the entire way through.