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Determining If You Have a Wrongful Termination Claim

If you or someone you know was laid off recently and there is a reason to believe that the termination was unlawful, there may be an opportunity to bring forth a wrongful termination claim against the employer. By filing a claim, the employee may recover monetary damages or in the event that he or she has not been officially terminated, a severance package that could include appropriate compensation.

A person may be fired or laid off from his or her position for countless reasons. Many of these reasons are not unlawful. This article will cover some of the most common reasons why a termination may be unlawful as well as other important elements. If you have been unlawfully terminated, one of the most important factors to consider is speaking to a qualified attorney. An attorney with the right experience can help you understand if you have a valid claim and can ultimately help you strategize for a strong claim.

Understanding Wrongful Terminations

When an employee has been wrongfully terminated, this means that he or she was either laid off or fired for unlawful motives. Illegal-based terminations may include, but are not limited to the following: Due to a sexual harassment claim or with the intent to cover for a sexual harassment claim, In violation of the federal and/or state antidiscrimination laws, In violation of collective bargaining laws, In violation of either oral or written agreements held by both the employer and employee, To seek retaliation on the employee for having filed a claim or complaint against the employer, or In violation of any labor laws.

It is important to recognize that many of these violations may carry statutory penalties. Other violations can result in the company or employer’s payment of damages that is based on the employee’s loss of wages. Depending on the facts of the case, some wrongful termination claims may include the possibility of punitive damages, payable to the terminated employee.

Workers in the State of California who are fired from work in violation of a contract, under discriminatory reasons, and/or for exercising legal rights could have a valid wrongful termination claim. A majority of workers in California, however, are at-will employees.

If you have reason to believe that you have been fired from your employment under wrongful termination conditions, you may have a legal case. Wrongful termination claims, however, are very fact-specific and it is essential to seek the legal representation of a well-versed attorney to review the case.

Employment Contract-Based Claims in California

When an employee has a contract that has promised to continue the employment for a specified amount of time or has otherwise placed limits on an employer’s ability to terminate the employment, the employer has the duty to meet those terms. If the employer has terminated the employment in violation of the terms in the agreement, there may be a strong claim against the employer.

Unbeknownst to many workers, employment contracts could be in written or oral form. In California, employment agreements can also be implicit in nature, meaning, they could be derived from certain actions and statements from the employer. For instance, an employee handbook can have a written statement about the terms in which a worker can be fired. When the employer has breached the agreement, the employee has the legal right to file a lawsuit for a loss of benefits, wages, and other forms of payment. Additionally, workers can also use the contract to negotiate a severance package.

Wrongful Termination Based on Discrimination

Every state in the nation has set anti-discrimination laws that protect workers from an unnecessary and unjust personal prejudice. Employers in the State of California cannot carry out job-related decisions, such as terminating a worker’s employment, based on the worker’s characteristics. California’s anti-discrimination laws protect workers against attacks based on their skin color, race, national origin, sex or pregnancy, religion, disability, age, and citizenship status. A thorough list can be found under the State of California Government Code Section 12940.

A worker that has been displaced from employment based on the membership of a protected group can have a strong wrongful termination case. Upon a successful claim, the employer can be forced to make restitution on not only the loss of benefits and wages but also for court fees, litigation expenses, emotional distress, or other punitive damages.

Claims Based on Retaliation

Employers in California are not able to terminate a worker’s position when the worker has exercised or tried to enforce his or her employment rights. For instance, a worker cannot be terminated over filing a complaint for workplace harassment or discrimination, taking a medical leave, requesting time off for jury duty, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or making a complaint about unlawful wage and hour practices. The State of California is perhaps one of the strictest states that offers employee protections over retaliation claims. When a worker has made a complaint or has exercised his or her right granted by the state, there could be a strong possibility for a valid wrongful termination claim.

Terminations Based on the Violation of a Public Policy

As previously mentioned, workers exercising a legal right cannot be legally terminated. Under this rule, an employee cannot be fired under the pretext that he or she refused to commit an unlawful act or made a complaint about illegalities in the workplace. Wrongful termination claims based on public policy are very similar to claims made with regard to retaliation. Retaliation claims, however, are based on specific legal provisions in California employment laws that prevent employers from terminating workers for exercising their rights or filing complaints about being denied certain rights.

On the contrary, public policy claims do not necessarily need to be based on California’s employment laws. The following are a few examples of wrongful termination based on a violation of public policy:

  • A worker belongs to a certain political group and lobbies for a certain agenda. Although the worker lobbies on his or her own time, he or she is still fired.
  • A worker is fired when he or she refused to lie to the IRS about the company’s purchases.
  • A worker is terminated after making a complaint about the company’s use of unlawful material.

Although there is no law that explicitly states that an employer cannot fire a worker for taking certain actions, employees can still have a valid wrongful termination claim. On the grand scheme of things, it is important to know that workers cannot lose their jobs for refusing to participate in unethical or unlawful behavior or for exercising a particular legal right.

Important Elements to Consider in the Aftermath of a Termination

Being laid off or terminated from a position can be difficult for anyone, especially if this termination was unexpected. If you have been fired, consider following the following factors: Refrain from acting in any form of negative demeanor toward the employer, This may include refraining from speaking bad about the employer, Contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney who can provide legal advice and represent your case, In the event that you have an employee contract, familiarize yourself with the provisions of the contract, Ask the employer about the reasoning behind your termination, Seek to discover the individual who decided on the termination, Make a request to view your personal file, Negotiate for a severance package, Confirm all agreements following the termination in writing, Be sure to return all items that belong to the property, This could include uniforms and other tools, Follow the company’s procedures in the aftermath of the termination.

The Bottom Line

If you have reason to believe that you were fired or laid off from your position due to unlawful reasons, seek the support and guidance of a qualified wrongful termination employee. An employee with the right experience will understand the local rules and regulations that may protect your rights as an employee.

If you were fired or laid off for unlawful reasons, it is important to have the support and guidance of a professional attorney who understands the applicable employment laws. With the guidance of an experienced attorney, you may be able to recover the compensation you are owed.

Hire the Legal Representation You Deserve

If you were unlawfully terminated, you should consider speaking to a qualified employee’s rights attorney straightaway. There are a wide range of potential legal protections that can validate your wrongful termination claim and an experienced attorney can guide you through your legal options. Additionally, a skilled attorney will investigate the case, determine the strongest claims, and vigorously protect your rights.

The Law Office of Attorney Justin H. King has over a decade of dedicated experience assisting clients protect their legal rights after a wrongful termination. The firm understands that a wrongful termination can severely hinder a worker’s personal finances and cause great emotional distress. Filing a wrongful termination claim in California can be complicated, especially when going against a company that has many resources. The State of California, however, has strict laws that serve to protect workers from unjust termination. Speak to a skilled attorney today to find out how you can get the financial compensation you deserve following an unlawful workplace termination. Contact the Law Office of Attorney Justin H. King for a free case evaluation.

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