California is an at-will employment state. Employees and employers are free to end the employment relationship with each other for any reason that does not violate state and federal employment laws. There are still many situations where a wrongful termination can occur in California. Suppose you were recently fired and believe you were the victim of a wrongful termination. In that case, it is important that you reach out to an attorney and learn whether you have a valid claim for compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim?
One of the most challenging aspects of pursuing a California employment lawsuit is knowing whether your termination was legal or illegal. Illegal terminations are referred to as wrongful terminations. Most jobs in Riverside and throughout California are considered at will, and an employee can be fired at any time and for any reason deemed appropriate by the employer. However, some exceptions to the general at-will law may allow you to take legal action against your employer.
Unless you were under contract with your employer for a fixed period of time or your contract has a clause that requires good cost for termination, you and your employer can leave the arrangement at any time, for nearly any reason. Your employer is not required to give you a prior warning or notice before firing you. conversely, you are not required to give your employer notice before you quit your job. Your employer can legally decide to fire employees for no reason, even if they perform their jobs exceptionally well and remain entirely within their rights.
Exceptions to the At-Will Employment Law
All employers do not have unlimited hiring and firing Authority for their companies. Companies in California are expected to adhere to all applicable public policies and the conditions and procedures outlined in company policies or the contract signed by the employee. The courts have found many exceptions to at-will employment firings unlawful. Specifically, it is unlawful to fire an at-will employee for the following reasons.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and other state and federal statutes prohibit discrimination in the workplace. An employer cannot fire an employee based on their protected characteristics, such as the employee’s religion, race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, or political beliefs.
Whistleblowers who report law violations by their employer cannot be fired. If an employee refuses to commit an illegal act, the employer is prohibited from terminating the employee’s employment.
Employees have the right to serve on a jury, take family medical leave, as allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and engage in other legally protected absences.
When an employer creates or fails to stop a hostile work environment that leaves an employee with no reasonable alternative but to resign from their position, this is considered wrongful.
Succeeding in a Wrongful Termination Claim
While you may have a suspicion that you have been wrongfully terminated, those suspicions can be extremely difficult to prove in court. Strengthening your case will involve contacting an unlawful termination attorney. HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to assist you and guide you through the most critical aspects of your claim.
Investigating Your Wrongful Termination Claim
First, we will gather relevant documentation proving that your employer has violated the employee handbook, employment contract, or state or federal employment law. We will review employee contracts, employee handbooks, employee files, past performance reviews, and all relevant communications to create a detailed account of why you were fired. Additionally, our attorneys will confirm all agreements regarding the termination of your employment and, if applicable, the severance agreement in writing.
If you sign an employment contract, we will carefully read through all the provisions in the contract. The contract may have limited the circumstances under which your employer can legally fire you. If you were fired for an unauthorized reason under your employment contract, you can pursue a claim for damages against your employer. It is also beneficial to interview co-workers when Gathering supplemental evidence and support for your wrongful termination claim.
If you have been wrongfully terminated, it is understandable that you will be frustrated or even angry with your employer. Now is not the time to commit legal violations or steal work property. Instead, you should speak to an attorney who can help you create a plan and strategy to recover compensation and hold your employer accountable through the legal process.
What Damages are Available in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits?
Victims of wrongful termination can pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer for terminating their employment in violation of the law or their employment contract. Wrongful termination claims may be based on retaliation, discrimination, failure to pay wages, breach of contract, and other improper reasons for dismissal. If you are interested in pursuing damages after being wrongfully terminated, it is important that you understand there are time limits for filing a claim, called the statutes of limitations.
Employees are generally required to file a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the wrongful termination. When pursuing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the charge needs to be filed within one year of the adverse employment action, which would be the date you were terminated. Claimants can pursue the following types of Damages through a wrongful termination lawsuit:
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
Contact a Riverside Employment Attorney
The experienced wrongful termination attorneys at HKM Employment Attorneys are prepared to fight for your right to compensation if you have been wrongfully terminated. We have a proven track record of obtaining employee compensation and holding employers accountable. Do not hesitate to contact HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule an initial consultation.