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Expert Wrongful Termination Attorneys

Wrongfully Terminated? You May Be Entitled To Compensation

In most instances, California employers can terminate a working relationship at any time, including laying off employees due to reorganization, downsizing, bankruptcy, or for no reason at all. However, it is unlawful to be terminated because of your race, religion, gender, or national origin or for engaging in a protected activity. 

If you were terminated for any of the reasons mentioned above, you may be able to sue your employer for wrongful termination. If you believe you were wrongfully fired, you may be entitled to damages for:

What Is Wrongful Termination?

According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates or retaliates against any employee who:

  1. Opposes harassment, discrimination or an employer’s failure to grant a valid family or pregnancy leave.
  2. Files a harassment or discrimination claim. 
  3. Requests an accommodation for a religious belief or observance, or because of a disability.
  4. Assists in or testifies in any (FEHA) investigation or proceeding.

Examples Of Wrongful Termination

Below are three examples of wrongful termination/workplace retaliation that are in violation of FEHA:

  1. Maggie is the victim of sexual harassment at the hands of her direct supervisor. Maggie then reports the sexual harassment to her Human Resources (HR) manager. The direct supervisor is immediately disciplined, but the direct supervisor retaliates by filing a horrible performance review which is later used to justify Maggie’s termination.
  2. Leora is a nurse and an Orthodox Jew. After accepting a new job offer, she requests an accommodation to avoid assignments on Saturdays because her religion dictates that she must observe the Sabbath on Saturdays. Within days of being hired, Leora is informed by email that things are “not working out” and she is immediately terminated.
  3. Mary is the only witness to a group of coworkers who were guilty of committing national origin harassment against another computer programmer from Iran. The aggrieved computer programmer files a harassment lawsuit against the employer, and Mary, as the only witness, decides to participate as a witness in the ensuing investigation. Mid-way through the investigation, Mary is “laid off” for no real reason.

What Is At-Will Employment?

Most employers in the state of California are at-will employers. Under California Labor Code 2922, all employment in California is presumed to be “at-will” unless both parties reach an agreement otherwise or when there is an exception to at-will employment. 

This means in most circumstances, an employer can lay off employees because of reorganization, downsizing, bankruptcy, or even for no reason at all.

How to Be Protected From Wrongful Termination

In the state of California, the primary law responsible for prohibiting retaliation and harassment in the workplace is the Fair Employment and Housing Act. FEHA specifically prohibits an employer from retaliating against any employee — this includes wrongful termination — simply for exercising his or her legal rights in the workplace.

Retaliation of course includes definitive actions such as wrongful termination, but it also includes less extreme actions like pay cuts, mistreatment, demotions, and reassignments to less desirable or less lucrative assignments.

How Do Wrongful Termination Claims Work?

Before thinking about anything else, you must determine whether you are an at-will employee. If your employment is at-will, your employer can terminate you with or without a valid reason.

You typically do not have a claim against an employer for wrongful termination or retaliation unless you were engaged in a protected activity recognized by the FEHA. Protected activities include being wrongfully terminated or retaliated against for participating in any FEHA proceedings.

Furthermore, you will not have a case against your employer for retaliation unless they took some form of adverse action against you. Adverse actions can be severe enough to include termination, but even demotions or pay cuts may count as adverse actions.

An adverse action can also be any pattern of behavior which adversely and materially affects the terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

The first and most important action you must take if you were wrongfully terminated is to gather as much relevant evidence as you can and keep it in a safe place. 

It is a good idea to document and safekeep any documents or recollections of all conversations with your employer that are relevant to your termination. Please make sure to include places, dates, and the names of all participants.

An employee must first file an administrative complaint before proceeding with a lawsuit. Any employee who wants to file a lawsuit in California must also file a complaint with FEHA. Once the DFEH has completed its investigation and determined whether or not you have a valid claim, you will be notified if you can file a claim in court. 

If you have completed all the necessary administrative complaint filing requirements, you may file a lawsuit. It is important that you consult with an experienced wrongful termination lawyer in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Types Of Wrongful Termination Claims

Below are just a few examples of wrongful termination claims:

Pregnancy Leave Violations (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a protected leave from work if an employee meets the requirements and works for a covered employer. An employee’s right to both return to their job and not suffer retaliatory action is protected by the FMLA. 

Pregnancy related wrongful termination is very common. If you were fired after giving birth to your child or were providing care for a loved one and were also covered under the FMLA, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. 

Workers’ Comp Claims

One of the most common examples of wrongful termination is retaliatory action taken after an employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim. If you were hurt on the job and were immediately terminated once you applied for or began receiving benefits, you may have a claim against your employer. 

Wage And Hour Or Unpaid Overtime Issues

California requires that most employers abide by certain rules, such as tracking hours, paying overtime, and providing rest and meal breaks for their employees. Wage and hour disputes are complex, but you have legal protections as an employee and are entitled to receive what is lawfully due to you without suffering retaliatory action.

Overtime provisions state that a nonexempt employee who is 18 years of age or older — or a minor employee who is 16 or 17 years of age and is not required to attend school, and/or is not prohibited by law from participating in the subject work — cannot be employed for more than eight hours in one workday or for more than forty hours in a workweek, unless that employee receives 1.5 times his or her regular pay rate for all hours that are worked over eight hours in a single workday and over 40 hours in a workweek.

Available Damages In A Wrongful Termination Claim

The various types of damages awarded after a successful wrongful termination claim may include:

Emotional distress. Damages for emotional distress may include compensation for your mental suffering, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, or humiliation after unfairly losing your job.

Lost wages and benefits. Damages for lost wages and benefits are intended to cover the back pay an employee would have earned if he or she was not wrongfully terminated; this also includes the value of any benefits an employee would have received in the same period, as well. 

Punitive damages. In rare instances, an employee may be entitled to punitive damages after a wrongful termination suit. Punitive damages are intended to punish an employer for its unlawful behavior and will only ever be awarded when an employer is found guilty of oppression, malice, or fraud.

West Coast Employment Lawyers Is Here to Help

The best course of action is to secure legal advice immediately upon determining that unfair treatment has or is occurring at your workplace. The wrongful termination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers will do everything possible to construct effective arguments to win your case. Our attorneys are committed to helping victims of wrongful termination receive full vindication, fair compensation, and the peace of mind they deserve.

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully terminated at work, immediately contact West Coast Employment Lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation with a disability discrimination lawyer at our firm. You can reach our legal team 24/7 by calling 213-927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


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