Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Wrongfully terminated at work? We can help if you have been wrongfully discharged from your employer.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated (wrongfully discharged) from your job, an experienced employment attorney may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve. Getting fired is a tough pill to swallow for most people, but losing your job unlawfully is even worse. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are properly compensated if you lost your job unlawfully, and the team of lawyers at Heidari Law Group can help you get started today.
What is Wrongful Termination?
In states such as California where employees are hired “at will,” companies can fire employees at any time, for any reason at all. As long as a dismissal does not occur for an unlawful reason, California employers have the right to terminate an employee without any advanced notice. So, what constitutes an unlawful termination then? Any dismissal that is done for discriminatory reasons, in retaliation against an employee’s actions, or is done in violation of the employment contract or public policy is considered to be a wrongful termination under the California labor law. In other words, this is a situation where an employee has been fired from a job in a way that violates their legal rights granted by a statute or rule within the California employment law, not because an employee believes their boss is being mean to them or singling them out specifically.
Retaliatory Wrongful Termination
Both state and federal laws protect employees against retaliatory action for reporting wrongdoing of their employer. These types of employment laws exist to protect employees who are standing up for their rights and give them reassurance that they don’t have to fear losing their job for reporting unlawful activities. If an employer punishes an employee in retaliation for taking part in a protected activity that an employer simply doesn’t approve of, this is also considered to be wrongful termination based on a violation of a public policy. Under California labor law, these are considered to be protected activities:
- Reporting or filing a complaint about sexual harassment or other unlawful conduct
- Filing a complaint about labor code violations including reporting misclassification of contractors, unpaid wages, or unsafe working conditions
- Filing a request to receive entitled benefits such as medical leave or overtime pay
- Refusing to follow an employer’s orders to take part in activities that would break the law
- Reporting of a company’s violation of laws to an outside source such as a law enforcement agency, body of government authority, or employee of the company who, such as an HR representative, who can work to correct the violation.
The standards for proving wrongful termination based on retaliation are the same as those for proving discrimination in a wrongful termination case. An employee must be able to provide evidence that shows a timeline of a direct connection between taking part in a protected activity and termination based on the participation in that protected activity.
Examples of retaliatory wrongful termination may include:
- Discharge of an employee’s after their refusal to commit an act that is illegal on behalf of the employer
- Discharge after an employee has filed a complaint against the employer
- Discharge of an employee after they have blown the whistle on an employer’s illegal activities such as sexual harassment or forcing employees to work in unsafe working conditions
- Termination that does not follow the employee handbook or company policies
Retaliatory dismissal can also include an employee being fired for taking:
- Pregnancy leave
- Medical Leave
- Family leave
Violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The federal government enacted the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993 which requires qualified employers to provide job-protected and unpaid leave for employees for family & medical reasons. This act granted employees of companies that have over 50 employees for at least 20 weeks out of the year the right to take leave from their work without retaliation to care for themselves if ill, to care for an ill loved one, or to spend time with or care for a newborn baby.
For an employee to be eligible for FMLA leave, they must have worked at the job for at least a year and for a minimum of 1,250 hours. If an employee meets the FMLA requirements, they are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for any of these reasons:
- Care of a foster or adopted child
- Birth or care of a newborn baby
- Care of a family member who is suffering from a serious illness or medical condition
- If the employee is suffering from an illness or medical condition that would prevent him/her from performing their job duties
- Care of a member of the armed forces who is suffering from a serious illness or medical condition
Discriminatory Wrongful Termination
To have a claim of discrimination in a wrongful termination case, an employee must be able to show that discrimination was a determining factor in their dismissal. Even if the discriminatory reasons were only one of the many factors that led to the dismissal, and the other factors were legitimate, an employee may still have a case for discriminatory wrongful termination.
In the context of wrongful termination, Discrimination is classified as an illegal dismissal based on the employee’s inclusion in a protected class such as:
- Sexual Orientation
- Age (for employees over 40)
- Ethnicity / National Origin
- Family Status
- Veteran Status
State and federal laws protect employees from being dismissed for discrimination against any of the classes above, and an employee has the right to pursue a wrongful termination case if they have been fired for such. If you’ve been wrongfully terminated for a discriminatory reason, you may be able to recover compensation for various damages or have your job reinstated.
While most employers would never admit that they fired an employee for a discriminatory reason, an employee can use many forms of evidence to show that discrimination may have been part of the decision such as:
- Any evidence of discrimination against other co-workers
- Evidence that other employees who are not part of a protected class received preferential treatment
- Showing timing of the termination and how it lined up shortly after an employee reported a pregnancy or injury
- Statistical evidence such as being able to show a consistently higher rate of dismissals for older employees compared to younger employees
- Inconsistency between an employer’s praise of an employee and the reason why they were fired. For example, if an employee was previously praised for their excellent work ethic but was fired for having a bad work ethic, this would imply that there may that the reason provided for the dismissal may not have been the real factor in the termination.
- Evidence that shows that an employer violated their own company policies in the termination of the employee.
Without the proper evidence, it can be much harder for an employment lawyer to build a winning case for you. Gathering the right evidence before dismissal even occurs, such as when an employer shows a drastic change in their attitude or the way in which they interact with you, is a key factor in determining the outcome of a wrongful termination case.
Breach of Contract Wrongful Termination
Not all employees in “at-will” states are given an employee contract, but many Californians sign one when they are hired. An employment contract is typically written out formally, but can also include other forms of communication such as email.
Employment contracts are used to outline expectations such as: pay or salary, work schedule, employee benefits, duration of employment, general employee responsibilities, and any confidentiality agreement (if included). Additionally, employee contracts can contain an agreement on the company’s ownership of any work-related materials, including but not limited to, company social media accounts or employer-owned vehicles.
A claim of wrongful termination based on a breach of the employment contract can be a relatively straightforward case, but employers hardly ever give in to the employee demands without putting up a fight. Employers who are sued for wrongful termination in breaching the employment contract often try to justify their decision by saying that an employee has failed to meet the standards of work they were required to fulfill. But, as long as an employee or their lawyer can prove that work was being performed within the requirements of the employment contract, then they will have a strong case for winning the lawsuit. On top of this, the employee or wrongful termination attorney may have support for a fraud case if they can prove that the employer never intended to keep the employee on board for the duration of employment listed in the contract.
Get In Touch with a Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
Wrongful termination can be a very stressful situation, especially if you are being retaliated against at your job. Our team of expert employment lawyers at Heidari Law are ready to review your situation and determine if there has been a wrongful discharge from your employer. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.