If you have been terminated from your job, do not assume the termination is justified. There is a chance the termination is wrongful. If your performance or behavior do no warrant termination, it might be possible for your attorney to advocate on your behalf to obtain compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.
A Definition of Wrongful Termination
The bare bones definition of wrongful termination is a firing without just cause. In order for one to be wrongfully terminated, he or she must be fired for a reason that is illegal. In many cases, wrongful termination involves contractual breach or a violation of the federal government's anti-discrimination laws.
As an example, one can't be legally terminated due to his or her religion, age, race, ethnic background or gender. Furthermore, it is also illegal for an employer to fire someone because he or she filed a legal complaint against the business. Nor can an employee be legally fired for bringing wrongdoings to light as a whistle blower. If the employer were to fire an employee for such reasons, it would be considered to be retaliatory and unlawful. However, the wrongdoing will only be brought to light if the employee hires an attorney to litigate the matter.
The Issue of At-Will Employment
Employment is at-will, meaning it is not guaranteed. The employer is able to terminate the employee at any time for nearly any reason or no reason at all. However, the exception is if the worker is terminated for an illegal reason like retaliation or discrimination. The violation of a labor contract is also an exception. The bottom line is if your attorney can prove your firing was triggered by an intolerance for your gender, race, ethnicity, religion or another factor you can't control, your claim for wrongful termination will prove successful.
Good Faith Exemption
California has a covenant of good faith that mandates employers terminate employees only if there is just cause. This law holds true even if the company's employee handbook does not note this specific requirement pertaining to just cause.
The Matter of an Employment Contract
If an employee signs a contract that outlines the tasks, duties and perks of employment, the employer is honored to require those terms. In general, a written contract signed by the employer and employee suggest job security exists. Some interpret this job security to mean the employment is not at-will like regular employment.
The nuanced language of your employment contract should state whether you can be terminated for failing to reach the employer's goal. If the language does not discuss termination for additional reasons, the employer has limited latitude for justifying your termination. Even if there is not a written employment contract, the employer might have some obligations stemming from verbal promises.
Job Loss Due to Discrimination
The vast majority of lawful termination cases are centered on discrimination according to race, ethnicity, sex, age, pregnancy, disability or religion. Employees with such characteristics are protected by California state labor laws as well as federal labor laws. Some of these laws are specific to sexual orientation as well as employee gender identity. As an example, if a California worker is terminated simply because he or she is transgendered, that individual can file a wrongful termination lawsuit with the assistance of an attorney. This suit is filed against the employer as LGBT workers are protected in California.
If you have been fired and suspect it was done for discriminatory reasons and have evidence to prove such, it is imperative you ally with an attorney right away to file a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The clock is ticking. If you do not act in a reasonable amount of time, your claim will not be accepted by the court. Your attorney can help you prepare this complaint, meet the deadline and adhere with the court's idiosyncratic requirements every step of the way.
Employers are barred from terminating employees for partaking in specific activities that are protected. As an example, if one notifies his or her employer about sexual harassment occurring in the workplace or if he or she attempts to unite the workforce, the employer can't terminate him or her. If the employer were to terminate such an employee, it would be considered to be retaliation.
If an employer terminates an employee out of retaliation, there is a good chance a lawsuit for wrongful termination will prove quite lucrative. There are plenty of other protected activities that can't legally lead to a firing. Examples of such activities include sitting on a jury, taking medical leave, temporarily leaving work to vote, serving in the military and participating in an investigation.
Wrongful Termination for Violation of Public Policy
Federal and state laws also bar employers from retaliating against workers who report alleged violations of low under supposed whistle blower protections. This protection is available at the federal level. With the proper legal assistance, it can also be argued such protection also applies to the state level. As an example, if an employee of an automaker reports his or her employer is using illegal aftermarket parts on the assembly line that put customers in danger, such a whistle blowing activity is not ground for legal termination.
Though there is no law that explicitly states the employer can't fire an employee for taking an action like the one outlined in the exampled described above, there is an overarching principle that no employee should be fired for refusing to engage in an illegal behavior or pointing out it is occurring. Such a termination is generally referred to as wrongful termination in violation of public policy. This is considered a personal injury case so a successful plaintiff can collect lost wages in addition to benefits, punitive damages and even damages for emotional distress to boot.
To be specific, California's Labor Code section 1102.5 has essential protections for workers who blow the whistle on their employer. In particular, section 1102.5's subpart (a) bars employers from creating or enforcing policies or rules that stop employees from providing information to law enforcement or the government, the employee's supervisor or another employee who has the authority to correct or look into violations of the law. Subpart (b) of the section makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who blow the whistle on their employer.
Wrongful Termination for a Statutory Obligation
If you do not perform an obligation that would have resulted in criminal prosecution and are subsequently fired, it is possible to win a wrongful termination lawsuit. As an example, firing a staffer who reports abuse at a nursing home to a regulatory agency qualifies as wrongful termination for conducting a statutory obligation.
Wrongful Termination After an Employee Exercises a Statutory Privilege or Right
Wrongfully terminated former employees have won cases based on the grounds they exercised their privilege or right provided by the law. Examples include permitting discharge from work to serve on a jury, take a meal, take a rest break, engage in union activities and file a workers' compensation claim.
Wrongful Termination for Not Participating in Illegal Activity
Courts have historically sided with employees who were wrongfully terminated after refusing to participate in the employer's requested illegal activity. If you have been terminated for failing to engage in such illegal activity including participating in illegal discrimination against a co-worker or committing perjury, you deserve financial compensation.
Protections for Those Who Report Workplace Safety Violations
If you report your employer's safety violation, you should not have to endure retaliation of any sort. The law states such retaliation is illegal. California's Department of Industrial Relations and the federal government's Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) oversee safety in the workplace. These groups provide avenues for employees and others to report safety violations in an anonymous manner. Such reports can be brought to the groups' attention either directly or by way of an attorney.
Our legal team is here to help you bring such information to the proper governmental authority and provide legal counsel on subsequent steps to prevent employer retaliation. The unfortunate truth is employers suspect one or several employees of reporting the violation or they end up finding out somehow. Our attorneys are here to help you through this arduous ordeal and maximize your compensation following a wrongful termination.
Section 6310 of the Labor Code states employers are not permitted to retaliate against workers who report safety violations. Any worker with first-hand knowledge of violations of safety regulations is encouraged to present them to OSHA. Examples of such safety violations include the failure to adhere to OSHA regulations, unsafe work practices like the removal of safety devices, failing to take the proper precautions to protect employees and failing to train employees to properly handle dangerous equipment and/or toxic materials.
Defining Sexual Harassment at Work
If you have been terminated after accusations of alleged sexual harassment, you need an attorney on your side to prove your innocence. An attorney will also help you obtain financial compensation for this injustice. Those who are wrongfully accused of sexual harassment deserve financial compensation for time lost at work and the significant disruption to their life. They also deserve to have their name cleared. Our attorneys are here to help you to do all of this plus recover damages following your wrongful termination after accusations of sexual harassment or other alleged misbehavior at the workplace.
According to the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, sexual harassment in the workplace is an unwelcome sexual advance or other behavior that is sexual in nature and interferes with the employee's performance. The creation of a hostile, intimidating or offensive work space qualifies as sexual harassment. Something like frequent sexual jokes or touching a co-worker also qualifies as sexual harassment. However, there are plenty of instances in which alleged victims have falsely accused others of sexual harassment in the workplace, leading to wrongful termination. If you are even slightly suspicious the claims against you are exaggerated or false, our attorneys can help you obtain justice.
In the vast majority of instances, an employee must be officially terminated in order for the wrongful termination claim to be justified. However, there is an exception referred to as constructive termination that might also support the claim. Constructive termination takes place when the working conditions are intolerable to the point that no reasonable employee can be expected to continue working and subsequently quits. If the employee in question endures intolerable harassment for something like a physical disability, sexual orientation or gender and the harassment continues with the employer's knowledge, the employee will have no other option but to quit. Such constructive termination is analogous to involuntary termination and provides the basis for a potentially lucrative wrongful termination claim.
Financial Compensation for Wrongful Termination
If you suspect you have been wrongfully terminated from employment, your first step is to hire an experienced attorney. This legal practitioner will help you navigate the court's procedures, craft a sound legal strategy and obtain money damages. Wrongful termination victims are empowered to recover money damages for past and future lost wages, benefits and compensation for emotional distress. It is also possible to recover attorney's fees and costs to boot. If the employer's actions were especially egregious in nature, punitive damages can also be awarded.
In general, employees who rely on the services of an attorney tend to settle before the trial starts. Though verdicts for such cases vary, they certainly have the potential to be quite large. This is precisely why many employers resolve wrongful termination cases with settlement agreements before a costly and time-consuming trial takes place.
Legal Assistance is Available
If you suspect you have been wrongfully terminated, you should not have to suffer in silence. California Sexual Harassment Attorney are here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation where we can review the facts of your case and determine if your claim has a chance to be successful. Give us a call at 800-905-1856 to coordinate an appointment.