can you sue an employer for wrongful termination

Wrongful termination refers to the illegal dismissal of an employee that violates state or federal laws, employment contracts, or public policy principles. In California, it occurs when an employer fires an employee for discriminatory, retaliatory, or otherwise illegal reasons.

Dealing with the aftermath of wrongful termination can be overwhelming, even though the Golden State has robust employment laws meant to protect workers. Let’s look closer at when you can sue an employer for wrongful termination and when to call experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys like the team at Bibiyan Law Group for help.

At-Will Employment in California

At-will employment is a legal doctrine allowing employers to terminate employees for any reason, without notice, and without cause. Similarly, employees can leave their jobs anytime without a reason.

This principle forms the basis of most employment relationships in California and many other states in the United States. However, there are some exceptions.

Implied Contract

An implied contract is when an employer makes oral or written promises of continued employment or job security, creating a reasonable expectation of job tenure. The contract can override the at-will employment relationship.

For example, an implied contract may exist if an employer promises job security if certain conditions are met, such as satisfactory performance.

Public Policy

Under California law, an employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that violate public policy. For example, suppose an employee fires an employee for reporting illegal activities within the company or exercising a legal right (such as taking family or medical leave). In that case, it may be considered wrongful termination, and the fired employee can seek legal recourse.

Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

California recognizes an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in employment relationships. Employers must act in good faith and deal fairly with employees in all aspects of the employment relationship, including termination. Terminating an employee in bad faith or for malicious reasons may give rise to a wrongful termination claim.

Common Wrongful Termination Examples in California

In addition to the previously mentioned instances where wrongful termination can happen, there are several other circumstances under which an employee in California may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.

Employers cannot fire employees for reasons that violate state and federal laws, including those related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and various other protections afforded to workers. Some common reasons a worker might file a wrongful termination claim include:

  • Sexual harassment/hostile work environment. Employers cannot terminate an employee for complaining about or reporting sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.
  • Racial discrimination. Terminating an employee based on their race or color is illegal in California.
  • Retaliation over workers’ compensation claims. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims or exercising their rights under workers’ compensation laws.
  • Violations of family and medical leave laws. Wrongful termination can occur if an employer fires an employee for taking leave under the federal and state leave laws or for asserting their rights.
  • Wage and hour violations. Employers cannot terminate employees for asserting their rights to fair wages, including the right to minimum wage and overtime pay.
  • Whistleblower retaliation. There are laws protecting employees from retaliation who report violations of the law by their employer.
  • Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) violations. Wrongful termination can occur if an employer violates FEHA during the firing process, such as by discriminating against an employee based on a protected characteristic.
  • Violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). Employers must provide advance notice of mass layoffs under the WARN Act. Failing to do so can lead to wrongful termination claims.

If you believe your employer wrongfully terminated you for any of these reasons, seek legal advice to understand your rights and options. California provides strong employee protections, and employers can be held accountable for wrongful termination under state and federal law.

Remedies Available for Wrongful Termination in California

Employees who prevail in a wrongful termination claim in California may be entitled to various remedies, including:

  • Reinstatement,
  • Back pay and front pay,
  • Compensatory damages for financial and emotional impacts, and
  • Punitive damages for egregious conduct.

Punitive damages are awarded in cases of wrongful termination in California when the employer’s conduct is particularly malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent. Unlike compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the employee for losses suffered, punitive damages are meant to punish the employer and deter similar conduct in the future. However, an employee must show that the employer acted with malice, oppression, or fraud rather than mere negligence, and such damages in wrongful termination are rare.

Steps to Take If You Believe You Were Wrongfully Terminated

If you experienced wrongful termination, you should take the following steps to protect your rights and potentially seek recourse.

  • Gather documentation. Document the circumstances of your termination, including records of any relevant conversations, emails, or documents related to the termination.
  • File a complaint. Contact the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office, which handles wage claims and certain types of wrongful termination claims.
  • Consult with an employment lawyer. Seek legal advice from an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer at Bibiyan Law Group who can assess your case, advise you on your rights, and help you pursue legal action if necessary.

These steps can help you build a strong case and protect your rights in a wrongful termination claim.

Trust the Employment Law Team at Bibiyan Law Group

At Bibiyan Law Group, we take pride in providing experienced representation to workers throughout California. Taking on your employer after a wrongful termination can be daunting, but you don’t have to face them alone.

Our employment law attorneys provide personal attention to ensure we understand your needs and will fight for the best outcome for your situation. We use a modern and personalized approach to legal representation. Call us to schedule a consultation, or fill out our online contact form to get started.

Author Photo

David Bibiyan is a distinguished attorney at Tomorrow Law, renowned for his expertise in employment law. With a strong focus on representing employees in various workplace disputes, he has become a trusted advocate for those facing discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and wage and hour issues. Bibiyan’s approach is characterized by a deep understanding of both state and federal employment laws, ensuring that his clients receive knowledgeable and effective representation. His commitment to justice is evident in his dedication to each case, where he meticulously works to secure the best possible outcomes for his clients. Bibiyan’s reputation is built on a foundation of successful case resolutions, marked by his skillful negotiation and, when necessary, aggressive litigation strategies. His work at Tomorrow Law reflects a genuine passion for defending workers’ rights and promoting fair employment practices.

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