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Can You Sue Your Boss for Wrongful Termination in California?

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Find A Wrongful Termination Lawyer in California

California has one of most worker protections in the US. Your employer cannot fire you for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons—and if they do, you have grounds to file claims and collect damages. Consult a California Employment Law Attorney to help you sort your lawsuit.

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In California, an employer may not fire or terminate an employee for illegal reasons. These reasons could either be discriminatory (firing an employee for belonging to a protected group or having protected traits) or retaliatory (firing an employee for fulfilling a legal responsibility or reporting an employer or coworker to related agencies).

Even if the employee is classified as "at-will," they still have grounds for Wrongful Termination should their case fit its characteristics.

Some of these offenses are punishable by law, while others require the employer to pay damages based on the sacked employee's lost salary and other expenses. In addition, certain California wrongful termination proceedings may result in the employer paying punitive damages to the dismissed employee. In contrast, others may result in the wrongdoer being held liable for damages by more than one offender.

What is Considered an Illegal Reason to Fire an Employee?

You can file a Wrongful Termination Claim in California if your employer has fired you for any of the following reasons:

  • Contract Claims. If you signed a contract stating you will be employed for a set amount of time, your employer is legally bound to follow it. When a corporation fires a worker in breach of a contract, the previous employee has the right to sue for wrongful termination.

  • Claims of Discrimination. It is considered illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of specific characteristics when making hiring, promotion, or firing decisions. Here are examples of possible discrimination claims:

    • Disability discrimination

    • Pregnancy discrimination

    • Retaliation against employees

    • Marital status discrimination

    • Sexual harassment in the workplace

    • FMLA discrimination

    • LGTBQ discrimination

    • Religious beliefs discrimination

    • Age discrimination

    • Race discrimination

    • Gender discrimination

    • Discrimination based on genetic information

    • National origin discrimination

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  • Claims of Retaliation. A company cannot fire a worker for attempting to exercise or enforce certain rights under California employment law. Employees, for example, are protected against retaliation if they submit a harassment complaint, take medical leave, serve on a jury, or make a workers' compensation claim.

  • Claims of Public Policy Violation. There are some fundamental differences between claims alleging breaches of public policy and claims involving retaliation. A claim for an infringement of public policy does not have to be based on a specific statute or law. For example, if employees refuse to mislead a tax auditor about the company's expenditures against your manager's request and are fired as a result, you may have a viable claim.

As a caveat, mass layoffs, poor performance, force reductions, closing down, or an action that is the employee's fault are all acceptable reasons to fire employees.

You should consult a Labor Lawyer in California to understand the specifics of your claim.

What Evidence Are Needed to Prove a Wrongful Termination Claim in California?

  • Photo and video evidence. When you're beginning to suspect you're being discriminated against or retaliated against, document the signs. If your employer or HR ignores coworkers committing discriminatory acts against you, take photos of it.

    • However, you should note that the act of taking this type of evidence (i.e., taking videos of another person) can exacerbate already present tensions (or worse, arguments), so be careful with them when you do.

  • Electronic messages. Your emails, chat rooms, and text messages from work can be evidence that you are being discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against. If you have emails and chats where your employer or HR specifically imply that you're getting fired for illegal reasons, keep them.

  • Pay stubs, time cards, written notices. These documents might be used as evidence that your employer has started retaliating against you (i.e., demotions, suspensions, and pay cuts). These are especially important to monitor if you've recently filed an Employment Law Claim to an agency.

What Compensations Can I Expect from a Successful Wrongful Termination Claim in California?

The large bulk of wrongful termination cases never make it to court. Most cases are settled ahead of time. Given the considerable unpredictability of civil proceedings, settlement is sometimes considered the best option for both sides.

Employers have their motivations for settling. Wrongful termination cases can reveal potentially devastating facts about a business, even when employers manage to defend themselves.

When making a claim for damages, your California Labor Law Attorney is going to help you calculate the damages, even non-economic ones.

The following are commonly considered when determining the value of a claim:

  • Loss of Wages. The total amount of pay lost by the employee from the time of termination to the present. A plaintiff must alleviate these damages (i.e., looking for a new job). Any interim benefits, such as new job income or unemployment compensation, are subtracted from the previous pay total. In some cases, if the employee has been unable to land a new job by trial or settlement, future salary loss may also be considered.

  • Benefits That Were Lost. When calculating lost wages, the loss of benefits is also taken into account. Thus, for example, if a discharged employee is required to pay for insurance coverage after firing, the employers may be held accountable for these out-of-pocket costs.

  • Emotional Distress. This is defined as the cost of emotional pain as a result of being fired without cause. Employees who have suffered anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress due to their termination may be entitled to compensation. In circumstances where the alleged behaviors were very heinous, such as accusations of harassment or discrimination, recovering for emotional distress damages is most likely.

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Various considerations may determine settlements in addition to the monetary worth of a wrongful termination suit. Many workers, for example, seek claims not just to recover lost wages, but also to see justice or personal retribution.

A successful settlement may provide validation and closure for workers who have been fired due to discrimination or retaliation. However, some seek changes in corporate policy in addition to the economic damages to prevent future wrongdoings.

Employers who claim they have done nothing wrong may also try to avoid settling so that similar lawsuits may not arise in the future. On the other hand, employers whose legal fees are covered by their insurance may be more inclined to litigate such disputes.

What's the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Claims in California?

Individuals must generally submit a discrimination charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within one year of the latest discriminatory incident. If you were fired, your firing was most likely the most recent discriminatory event. The statute of limitations is tolled once you file a charge with the DFEH or the EEOC. This implies that while the government investigates your claim, the statute of limitations would not run out.

Do You Have a Wrongful Termination Claim? Find An Employment Attorney in California can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Claims in California. No win, no fees! Complete our submission form for a free case review.

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