A wrongful termination lawsuit in California represents a formal legal action that claims a former employer illegally fired a worker. Filing a civil lawsuit can get you one or more of the following damages.
- Lost wages and benefits
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Court costs
- Legal fees
- Damages that punish an employer
Although it is natural to think about winning damages, you need to put the horse before the cart and determine whether you have the grounds to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Outside of At-Will Employment Restrictions
Most employment arrangements in California at “at-will.” This means bother employers and employees can part ways at any time. Employees can leave a job for any reason, but employers cannot terminate a worker for the wrong reasons.
Here are the most common types of “wrong reason.”
- Breaking an employment contract
- Making a termination decision without good cause
- Breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
- Violating public policy
For most workers wrongfully fired by their employers, implied contract and public policy violations are the most common exceptions to an at-will employment arrangement.
Violation of California Employment Law
According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers. FEHA protections extend to the termination of an employee, as an employer cannot fire a worker based on race, gender, and religious factors, among other types of discriminatory factors. For example, an employer cannot fire an employee who requests reasonable workplace accommodations to counter the negative mental and/or physical impacts of a disability.
Proving a former employer fired you because of one or more discriminatory factors typically requires witnesses to come forward to verify your allegations.
Revenge is not a dish best served cold for employers that retaliate against workers by firing them. Retaliation comes in many forms, but it usually involves punishing a worker for reporting a violation of a law or public policy. Let’s say you have evidence that your employer failed to pay its fair share of taxes. Reporting the tax fraud should not motivate your employer to dismiss you.
California has a whistleblower protection law on the books that prohibits private sector employers from terminating employees as a retaliatory gesture. At the federal level, the Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal for many public sector employers to retaliate by firing a worker.
Your political beliefs should never be a factor that determines your job performance. Although the right to free speech granted by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution does not apply to political speech in the workplace, California statutes make it clear that employers cannot fire workers because of their political affiliations.
Employees in California that join a union or participate in union events are also protected by California wrongful termination law.
You do not have to get wrongfully fired to have a strong enough case to file a claim and/or a civil lawsuit for wrongful termination. Sometimes, the intolerable actions of an employer force a worker to quit or resign.
Referred to a constructive termination, forcing a worker to quit or resign because an employer intentionally allowed working conditions to deteriorate is considered a violation of California employment law. An example of constructive termination is constantly harassing a worker while the worker is on the job.
Documentation is the key to proving constructive termination, as well as witness accounts of the abuse that you took in the workplace.
Violation of the WARN Act
The California Worker Retraining and Notification Act (WARN) requires employers to give workers ample notice of closing or relocation plans. Employers in California that plan to layoff at least 50 employees and have a minimum of 75 workers on payroll must provide employees 60 days of notice. California workers have the right to sue for wages and benefits if an employer fails to follow the requirements stipulated in the WARN Act.
Learn More About the Legal Grounds of a Civil Lawsuit
If you feel your former employer terminated you for the wrong reasons, get a confirmation by working with a California-licensed employment lawyer. You will need to provide your attorney with documentation that proves your employer fired you for the wrong reasons. After a thorough review of the evidence, your lawyer will decide whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.