Table of Contents Hide
- What Is Wrongful Termination Law in California?
- What are the grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit in California?
- Contract Claims for Wrongful Termination
- How do I file a wrongful termination claim in California?
- How do you prove wrongful termination?
- What is the average payout for wrongful termination in California?
- How do you prove wrongful termination?
- Is it hard to prove wrongful termination?
Employers terminate employees on a daily basis. It could be due to a lack of work ethic, a lack of competence, or something else. For the most part, firing an employee in California is legal. Both the employer and the employee can end the working relationship at any moment and without notice in an “at-will” state. However, you have the right to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit if your employer fires you for the wrong reasons illegal grounds. The attorneys at Workplace Rights Law Group have decades of combined expertise handling California wrongful termination claims. We’re pleased with the outcomes we’ve achieved in collaboration with our clients. Hence, this poster is targeted towards letting you know all that about Wrongful termination in California. Sit tight and enjoy the knowledge ride.
What Is Wrongful Termination Law in California?
A wrongful termination claim may be filed by an employee who was fired for discriminatory grounds. For exercising their legal rights, or for violating an employment contract. When an employer terminates an employee’s employment agreement in violation of the employee’s legal rights. This is wrongful termination.
Despite the fact that California is an “at-will” state, which means that an employer or employee can be fired at any time and for any lawful reason, with or without cause, and with or without previous warning.
Nonetheless, wrongful termination lawsuits arise in California when state and federal laws expressly prohibit employers from discharging employees for a variety of improper reasons.
According to California termination legislation, firing an employee for an illegal reason constitutes wrongful termination.
What are the grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit in California?
#1. Exceptions to “at-will” employment
We’re frequently asked if you can be dismissed for no cause in California. Yes, you certainly can. However, being dismiss for the wrong reasons can sometimes be unjust termination.
Most job relationships in California are “at-will” as a general rule. Employees who work at will can be fired at any moment and for any cause.
However, there are a few exceptions to the general rule of at-will employment under California labor law. These are some of them:
- An “implied contract” not to terminate employment without good cause;2
- A breach by the employer of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing;3
- Wrongful termination in violation of public policy. For example, terminating an employee because s/he refused to help an employer violate the law, or performed a legal duty;4 and
For most fired employees, the most helpful of these exceptions to at-will employment is the implied contract and public policy theories of wrongful discharge.
#2. Implied contract
An “implied contract” is an agreement that is understood by both parties. Even if they have not signed a written document memorializing this.
An employer may create an implied contract not to terminate an employee without good cause by:
- issuing an employee handbook listing specific reasons why employees may be fired, and/or
- telling an employee in person that his/her job is safe as long as s/he doesn’t do certain things.
#2. Public policy
When an employee is fired for refusing to comply with an employer in doing illegal or socially undesirable acts, this is known as wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
For example, if an employee is fired because he or she refused to assist an employer in violating criminal fraud laws, the employee will have a valid case for wrongful termination based on public policy.
#3. Whistleblower protection
The so-called “whistleblower” retribution is a prevalent kind of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. When an employer fires an employee for reporting a probable legal infraction by the employer to a government agency or law enforcement agency. This is whistleblower termination.
Labor Code 1102.5 LC is California’s major whistleblower protection statute. This law states that an employer may not retaliate against an employee who reports a suspected breach of the law to:
- a government or law enforcement agency, or
- a supervisor or other employee who has the authority to investigate or correct the violation
#4. Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Qui Tam
Other statutes give more specific protection for whistleblowers.
Employees of publicly traded companies, for example, can sue for wrongful termination under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (a federal law designed to protect investors from fraudulent accounting by public companies). Which gives them the right to report suspected securities fraud to the federal government or a supervisor.
The California False Claims Act’s “qui tam” clause is another key whistleblower statute. An employee can sue their company on behalf of the state government under California’s qui tam law. This is true if the employer defrauded the government or embezzled government monies.
If an employer fires or retaliates against an employee for filing a qui tam lawsuit. The employee has the right to sue for wrongful termination or qui tam retaliation.
#5. Wrongful discharge under the Fair Employment and Housing Act
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act the main state law prohibiting workplace harassment and employment discrimination makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who
- Oppose harassment or discrimination,
- File a complaint about harassment (including sexual harassment) or discrimination, or
- Testify or assist in any investigation or lawsuit over harassment or discrimination.
#6. Wrongful constructive termination
Employees can sue their employers for wrongful termination under California’s “wrongful constructive termination” / “constructive discharge” statutes, even though they are not fired from their jobs. When an employer makes working conditions so terrible for an employee that he or she has no choice but to resign, this is a constructive termination.
An employee may be able to sue for wrongful constructive termination if:
- His/her employer intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable that a reasonable employer would expect a reasonable employee to resign because of them; and
- The employer would not have been within his/her rights to terminate the employee outright (because of an implied oral contract, or because termination would have been against public policy).
Moreover, various California workplace retaliation laws ban companies from retaliating against employees in ways other than termination or constructive termination. Such as whistleblower retaliation and FEHA retaliation.
#7. Political activities
Employees in California may be to sue their employers for wrongful termination if they are sack for engaging in political activity or speech.
The United States Constitution’s First Amendment does not apply to private-sector terminations.
12 Employers cannot, however, regulate or guide their employees’ political activity or statements under California labor law. As a result, an employee who is sack for political engagement can sue for wrongful termination.
If a California employee is for joining a labor union or participating in union activities. They may be able to file a wrongful termination claim.
#8. WARN Act
The failure of an employer to comply with California’s Worker Retraining and Notification (WARN) Act is another type of wrongful termination.
Before mass layoffs of fifty (50) or more employees, or shutting or transferring a facility. California’s WARN Act requires companies to provide employees sixty (60) days’ notice. It is applicable to all employers with at least 75 employees.
Employees may claim wages and benefits for the time the notice fell short of 60 days if the employer fails to provide a 60-day notice.
Contract Claims for Wrongful Termination
Your employer must keep its half of the bargain if you have a contract that guarantees you ongoing employment for a set period of time or restricts your employer’s authority to fire you (for example, only for “good cause” or other defined grounds). You may have a solid claim against your employer if they fire you in breach of the provisions of your contract.
A written or oral agreement might form the basis of an employment contract. Certain actions or statements by your employer, such as a declaration in an employee handbook that indicates employees solely for cause, may also be construed as an employment contract. (See Types of Employment Contracts for additional information on how these contracts are what they entail.) You can sue for salary, benefits, and anything else you should have received if your employer broke a contract of any kind. You can also use the contract as a negotiating chip with your employer to negotiate a severance package.
#1. Discrimination Claims
Employers are prohibited from making employment choices, including whether or not to fire an employee, based on protected traits. Race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, marital status, AIDS/HIV status, medical condition, political beliefs or activities, military or veteran status, or status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or assault are all examples of these characteristics in California. (For further information, see Employment Discrimination in California.)
You may have a solid wrongful termination case if you were fired because you belong to a protected class. If you win a discrimination claim, your employer could be obliged to pay not only your lost income and benefits. But also your legal fees and court costs, emotional distress damages, and perhaps punitive penalties.
#2. Retaliation Claims
An employee cannot be sack for exercising or attempting to assert his or her job rights. You cannot be dismiss for submitting a discrimination or harassment complaint, requesting or taking family and medical leave, serving on a jury, making a workers’ compensation claim, or complaining about improper wage and hour practices. For example (such as unpaid overtime or illegal tip-sharing arrangements). California is perhaps the state with the strongest employee safeguards, which means there are numerous potential grounds for retaliation claims. You may have a claim against your employer if you were fired for filing a complaint or exercising a legal right.
The damages available for retaliation claims are determined by the statute under which you exercised your right. A successful employee, on the other hand, can typically recover not just lost earnings and benefits. But also attorneys‘ expenses, damages for emotional distress, and, in some cases, punitive penalties.
#3. Violation of Public Policy
Employees cannot be sack for exercising a lawful right, refusing to commit an illegal act, or complaining about illegal behavior in the workplace. Retaliation claims are comparable to public policy claims, but they differ slightly. A retaliation claim is based on a specific legal provision in an employment law that bans employers from dismissing employees for exercising that right or submitting a complaint about that right being denied.
A public policy claim, on the other hand, does not have to be founded on a specific statute or even an employment law. Some instances are as follows:
- An employee belongs to a group that opposes mandatory childhood vaccines and lobbies lawmakers to allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children. She is fired, even though she does this work entirely on her own time.
- An employee is sack after refusing his manager’s request to lie to an IRS auditor about the company’s equipment purchases in the past year.
- An employee at a company that manufactures airplane parts is sack for filing a complaint with the federal government. Alleging that the company is illegally using after-market parts in its operations.
Even while no legislation clearly indicates that an employer may not fire an employee for doing this particular activity. The employee would have a wrongful termination claim in any of these scenarios. The underlying premise is that no one should be sack for expressing their legal rights, protesting, or refusing to engage in illegal or immoral action.
Wrongful termination in violation of public policy is a type of personal injury (tort) claim, which means that a successful employee can recover not only lost wages and benefits. But also damages for emotional distress and punitive damages (in cases where an employer’s actions are particularly egregious).
#4. Other Personal Injury Claims
Other personal injury claims may arise from an employee’s job-related. An employee was fired after being sexually harassed by a manager. For example, might be able to file a claim for assault or violence (in addition to a harassment and retaliation claim). Alternatively, an employee wrongly accused of stealing may have a defamation action if the employer spreads the false information purposefully. Harming the individual’s chances of finding another job. You may have a fraud claim if your employer made significant promises to entice you to take the job without intending to keep them. You can ask the court to award lost wages and benefits, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages in any of these personal injury lawsuits.
How do I file a wrongful termination claim in California?
If you lose your job and believe you may have a wrongful termination claim against your previous employer. Do the following two actions as soon as possible:
To establish an attorney-client relationship, contact an experienced California wrongful termination lawyer. Obtain and preserve all relevant evidence in your case.
Obtaining and retaining all written papers your employer has given you pertaining to your termination and your job performance previous to termination is, of course, part of gathering evidence (for example, your termination letter, copies of all past performance reviews).
If you have not saved these documents yourself, you may need to request them from your employer. (If your employer ignores your requests, a lawyer can assist you in making them more aggressive.)
In the collection of evidence for a lawsuit, a California employment attorney can be very helpful. As the case progresses, he can assist you in determining what evidence will be crucial.
How do you prove wrongful termination?
The following are examples of typical evidence that might be used to show that you were fired illegally:
- Managerial communications that are such as emails or voicemails, and demonstrate abusive or discriminatory behavior. Handwritten notes, memos, and social media posts are examples of other things that could be useful.
- Eyewitness accounts from coworkers who can corroborate your version of events. A colleague who witnessed your employer harassing you is an example.
- Data on the company’s workforce that demonstrates systemic bias. A scarcity of persons of color in managerial roles, for example, may imply that hiring partners are favoring white employees.
In a wrongful discharge lawsuit, oral conversations could constitute crucial evidence. Conversations concerning your termination, your job performance, and any other conversation that lead you to establish specific expectations about your job stability could all be relevant under California law.
As a result, it’s critical to jot down and save your recollections of all talks with supervisors or other employees that could be significant to your termination. All of these interactions should be in writing, with the date, location, and names of all participants.
What is the average payout for wrongful termination in California?
While the average settlement for wrongful termination cases in California is around $40,000, the average value of a court verdict in wrongful termination cases is slightly larger, around $45,000 (but do keep in mind that attorney fees for legal representation in a wrongful termination trial will skyrocket, too).
How do you prove wrongful termination?
To prove a case of wrongful termination, the fired worker generally has to show that the employer’s stated reason for the discharge was false, and that the termination was for an illegal reason. That illegal reason is generally unlawful retaliation, discrimination, a breach of contract, or a violation of public policy.
Is it hard to prove wrongful termination?
For a wrongful termination lawsuit to be successful, you’ll need to prove that your manager and/or employer acted with illegal motives. This can be a difficult task as employers and managers will rarely admit they had illegal motives when they fired you.