When you lose your job, sometimes you have to roll with the punches, but sometimes you have the right to take legal action against your employer.
So, what is the difference between these options? You have a right to sue or file an administrative complaint against your boss if their reason for firing you was in breach of a contract or because of your protected status.
If you don’t know whether you have a valid wrongful termination claim or how to handle a claim, the following article can help you get started. However, the best start you can have is to consult an experienced wrongful termination lawyer in California.
You can find the right lawyer at Workplace Rights Law Group. Our firm tailors unique strategies for each client, and our winning strategies have put millions in mistreated workers’ pockets. Call us today for a free case review and to learn more about what to do when you get fired unfairly.
Was I Wrongfully Fired from My Job?
As mentioned above, a wrongful termination claim can be based on your employer’s breach of a work contract or your protected status. Let’s go over how each of these scenarios can look.
Breach of Contract
At-will employment is the default for workers in California. When an employee is at-will, they generally can be fired for any reason (except for an illegal reason) and at any time.
However, an employee is not in the at-will category if they have an employment contract that states that they are to be employed for a set amount of time or that they cannot be fired unless certain events occur. Remember, a valid employment contract can be written or oral and express or implied.
If your employer fires you earlier than your contract dictates or for a reason not outlined in the contract, the termination might be illegal. To hold your employer accountable, you can sue for breach of contract to collect damages or equitable relief.
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer cannot terminate an employee for one, or more, of the following reasons:
- Age (for those 40 or older),
- Gender (including gender identity and expression),
- Marital status,
- Medical condition,
- Military status,
- Sexual orientation, or
- Veteran status.
You can file a legal complaint if you were terminated for your actual perceived characteristics. You can also seek damages if your employer fires you for associating with someone who has a particular protected characteristic.
State and federal laws also forbid employers from terminating employees for exercising their statutory rights, such as:
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim,
- Filing a wage theft claim,
- Reporting illegal or unsafe workplace activities,
- Refusing to engage in criminal activity,
- Filing a discrimination complaint,
- Assisting with the investigation of a coworker’s discrimination complaint,
- Reporting for jury duty,
- Requesting family or medical leave, or
- Reporting for military leave.
If you believe one of the above-listed circumstances was a substantial motivating factor for your job termination, you can likely sue your employer for illegally firing you.
You now know the basics of when a job termination is illegal, so let’s discuss what to do when you get fired unfairly.
Actions to Take When You Are Wrongly Fired from a Job
Taking any legal action against a former employer can be an intimidating process. However, knowing what to expect and what steps to take to maintain your claim can ease the stress of seeking legal remedies. Read below for the general steps to take to protect and assert your rights in a wrongful termination claim.
Speak to a Knowledgeable Attorney
A job termination can leave you in a tailspin, and you may have trouble identifying the factors that made your termination illegal. This is why speaking to an experienced attorney immediately after losing your job is crucial.
When you speak to one of our highly experienced employment lawyers from Workplace Rights Law Group about the details of your case, we can pinpoint all unlawful motivations involved in your termination and bring your former employer to justice.
To deflect accusations of wrongful termination, many employers will claim that your protected characteristics or activities had nothing to do with your termination. An employer might also argue that you were fired for misconduct.
You can thwart these defenses by providing proof of similarly situated coworkers being treated more favorably, evidence of discriminatory behavior by your employer, or proof of your satisfactory job performance. This proof might include the following:
- Employer correspondence,
- Personnel records,
- Employment contracts,
- Employer policies,
- Copies of internal complaints and their resolutions,
- Documents regarding wage increases or promotions, and
- Witness testimony.
When gathering this evidence, remember that the State of California gives you the right to obtain a copy of your personnel file, even after termination. Proving your case might also require accessing information from the personnel files of other employees, and this is best left to an attorney.
Timely File Your Claim
We don’t want you to feel too much pressure regarding your claim, but time is of the essence, and you need to act quickly to obtain relief. Depending on the type of claim you have, certain deadlines apply.
For instance, a state discrimination complaint must be filed with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) within three years. You must submit a CRD complaint and receive a Right to Sue notice before you can sue your employer in state civil court.
It is important to note that if you don’t meet the deadlines applicable to your case, you could be barred from any legal recourse after your employer mistreats you. To avoid losing your rights, you should speak to an attorney immediately about the circumstances of your job loss.
We Have What It Takes to Protect You
When you need to confront an employment issue, you need an attorney who can handle anything an employer might throw at you.
At Workplace Rights Law Group, we have over 75 years of combined employment law experience focused specifically on employment matters. We have the experience, we get the results, and we care about the well-being of every employee. Call us today or contact us online if you need help.