Recent studies suggest that people change jobs, for one reason or another, every three years. Many of them because they were terminated by their employer. However, a lot of people don't realize that there are laws in place to protect them from being wrongfully terminated from their place of employment.
Our wrongful termination lawyers in Orange County have helped recover over $200,000,000 for those whose rights have been violated. By taking advantage of a free case evaluation you can find out if you have a valid claim to receive compensation.
That being said, before you can understand the laws that govern wrongful termination in California, you must first understand the concept of “Employment At-Will”.
California is an at-will state, meaning that employees are considered to be employed at their own will and at the will of their employer. This simply means that you can quit your job without reason or cause at any time. But, it also means that your employer can terminate your employment at his discretion as well.
It doesn't matter if you did anything wrong, or if your employer has misinterpreted the events that led to your termination. Your employment may be terminated for almost any reason, even for no reason at all, provided that the reasons are not unjust or discriminatory.
Specifically, you cannot be fired for any of the following protected class reasons:
- Retaliation - Your employers cannot fire you as retaliation for claiming discrimination or because you are part of an investigation of the same. This would be in violation of your civil rights.
- Discrimination - You cannot be fired because of your race, religion, age, sex, pregnancy, national origin, marital status, color, or disability.
- Objecting to Unpaid Wages - You cannot be fired because you filed a claim for unpaid compensation or complained about not being paid overtime.
- Reporting Illegal Activity - Your employment cannot be terminated for complaining about the violation of any law, rule or regulation or for reporting illegal activity.
- Family or Medical Leave - You may have the right under Federal law to take a leave of absence for certain health or family issues. If you feel you were fired because you took advantage of these rights under federal law, you may have a strong case for compensatory damages.
- Not Performing Illegal Acts - If you are asked to perform a duty or act that is illegal and your employer fires you because you refuse to do so, you may have been wrongfully terminated.
- Contractual Agreement - Generally, if you are working on the basis of an employment contract, you may only be fired for reasons outlined in your contract or for a violation of your contract.
- Workers Compensation Claim - you cannot be fired for making a workers' compensation claim.
- Violation of The Employer's Own Termination Procedure - If you have received an employee handbook or some other statement which outlines the procedure your employer must follow in order to terminate your employment, and that procedure is not followed, you may have a claim for wrongful termination.
In general, being fired for a reason that is unfair, or as a result of an unfair accusation is not against the law, unless there is evidence that the real reason happens to fall into one of the categories above. If your situation does fall into one of the categories above, speaking with a wrongful termination lawyer in Orange County is in your best interest.
For example, if you have been accused of stealing something from your employer, harassing a coworker or threatening someone in the office, and are subsequently fired from your place of employment, no matter how unjust those accusations may be, they will not give rise to a wrongful termination claim unless there is evidence linking your termination to one of the protected classes of reasons above.
What to Do if You Believe You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated
If you believe that your employment has been unjustly fired, you need to file a complaint with either the Department of Fair Employment or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the federal agency in charge of investigating employee complaints.
If a preliminary investigation finds no violation against your employer, you will then be given “a notice of right to sue”. This will allow you to file suit against your employer in a court of law.
If a violation has been found and the EEOC decides not to take legal action against your employer, you will also receive a notice of right to sue. This will give you the green light to hire an attorney to assist you in pursuing compensation from your employer for wrongful termination.
Compensation for Wrongful Termination in California
Generally, if you have been wrongfully terminated, you can recover the following damages:
- Lost wages and benefits;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Punitive damages
Furthermore, if your termination was based on discrimination, you will be entitled to recover attorney’s fees and any costs associated with bringing the lawsuit or obtaining a wrongful termination settlement against your employer.
Obtain Your Free Case Evaluation
If you have recently been wrongfully terminated, find out how the Cooper Law Firm can help. Choosing the right law firm may be the most important decision you make. Our wrongful termination attorneys in Orange County have the knowledge and experience to ensure that our clients recover everything they are owed and are entitled to under California labor laws. Call us today for a free no-cost consultation.