What to Do If You Were Wrongfully Terminated?

Wrongfully Terminated

Being wrongfully terminated from your job can be a distressing and frustrating experience. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, there are certain steps to take to seek justice. This article will guide you through dealing with wrongful termination, focusing on California’s laws and regulations.

What Amounts to a Wrongful Termination in California

California is an “at-will” employment state, meaning employers have the right to terminate an employee’s contract for any reason or no reason. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and California law identifies certain reasons that are considered illegal for terminating an employee

Below are some of the illegal reasons for termination in California:

  • Discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, or other protected characteristics.
  • Retaliation for engaging in protected activities, such as whistleblowing or reporting illegal activities.
  • Wrongful discharge for refusing to participate in illegal activities.
  • Constructive discharge when the working conditions become intolerable, forcing the employee to resign.
  • Wrongful discharge due to an employee’s political views.
  • Violation of the Worker Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act requiring employers to provide advance notice of mass layoffs or plant closures.
  1. Contract Claims for Wrongful Termination

In addition to the general protections mentioned above, specific laws provide additional safeguards for employees facing wrongful termination. These include:

California Labor Code 1102.5

Under Labor Code 1102.5, employees are protected from retaliation when they disclose information about a state or federal law violation to a government or law enforcement agency. This law encourages whistleblowing and ensures that employees can report illegal activities without fear of reprisal.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is a federal law that protects employees of publicly traded companies who report fraudulent activities or financial misconduct. You may have a valid claim under this act if you were terminated for reporting such misconduct.

California False Claim Act (CFCA)

The CFCA allows employees to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government when their employer defrauds a government agency. If you were wrongfully terminated after reporting fraud against the government, you might have grounds for a CFCA claim.

  1. Wrongful Discharge Under Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers play a vital role in uncovering wrongdoing and protecting the public’s interest. California law strongly protects whistleblowers reporting illegal activities or violating laws and regulations. If you were terminated in retaliation for blowing the whistle, you might have a strong case for wrongful termination.

  1. Wrongful Termination Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from terminating employees based on protected characteristics like race, gender, religion, or disability. If you believe your termination was motivated by discrimination or retaliation, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options under the FEHA.

  1. Wrongful Constructive Termination

Constructive termination occurs when an employer makes the working conditions so intolerable that an employee must resign. If you can demonstrate that your resignation was a direct result of your employer’s actions, you may be able to pursue a claim for wrongful constructive termination.

  1. Wrongful Discharge for Divergent Political Views

California recognizes the importance of protecting employees’ rights to express their political views without fear of retaliation. Under the California WARN (Worker Retraining and Notification) Act, employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on their political affiliations or beliefs. 

If you were fired due to your political views, it’s crucial to consult an experienced employment attorney who can help you understand your rights under the WARN Act and assess the viability of a wrongful termination claim.

Filing a Wrongful Termination Claim

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, taking the appropriate steps to protect your rights and seek justice is crucial. Below are some key actions to consider:

  • Document everything: Gather and organize evidence related to your termination. This may include emails, performance evaluations, witness statements, or other documentation supporting your case.
  • Consult an employment attorney: Hire a wrongful termination attorney in Los Angeles to increase your chances of success. An experienced attorney will assess the merits of your claim, guide you through the legal process, and advocate on your behalf.
  • File a complaint: Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may advise you to file a complaint with the appropriate government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). These agencies can investigate your claim and potentially pursue legal action.
  • Explore alternative dispute resolution: In some cases, exploring alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration, may be beneficial. These processes can offer a quicker and less formal resolution to your wrongful termination claim.
  • Consider a lawsuit: If all other avenues fail to provide a satisfactory resolution, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit against your former employer. Your attorney will guide you through the litigation process, representing your interests and seeking the compensation you deserve.

Damages Recoverable in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

You may be entitled to damages if you succeed in your wrongful termination claim. These damages aim to compensate you for your harm due to the wrongful termination. 

The three main categories of damages typically available in wrongful termination lawsuits are:

Economic Damages

Economic damages include back pay, compensating you for the wages and benefits you would have earned if you hadn’t been wrongfully terminated. This may also cover any future lost earnings resulting from the termination. Additionally, economic damages may include reimbursement for any expenses you incurred as a direct result of the termination, such as job search costs or relocation expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages seek to compensate you for the emotional distress, humiliation, and other psychological impacts caused by the wrongful termination. While it can be challenging to assign a monetary value to non-economic damages, an experienced attorney can help you assess the appropriate compensation based on the specifics of your case.

Punitive Damages

In certain circumstances, punitive damages may be awarded in a wrongful termination lawsuit. These damages are intended to punish the employer for particularly egregious behavior and deter similar conduct in the future. To be eligible for punitive damages, you must demonstrate that your employer acted with malice, fraud, or oppression.

Experiencing wrongful termination can be a challenging ordeal. However, by understanding your rights and taking the appropriate steps, you can seek justice and hold your employer accountable for their unlawful actions. Remember to consult a qualified employment attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help you build a strong case.

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