Most California employment is ‘at-will,’ which means your employer can fire you at any time for any reason, even if the reason seems unfair. What your employer cannot do is fire you for illegal or unlawful reasons, such as for discriminatory or retaliatory motives or in breach of an employment contract. When an unlawful termination does occur, it is considered “wrongful.”

In California, employees whose employers have unlawfully fired them can seek economic and noneconomic damages for wrongful termination for the harm they suffered. This article will explore a wrongfully terminated employee’s rights and investigate the damages available in wrongful termination cases, including for lost wages, emotional distress, and punitive actions against employer misconduct.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Wrongful termination in California includes firings for discriminatory, retaliatory reasons, or breaches of contract, despite at-will employment laws.
  2. Wrongfully terminated employees have rights including filing claims, protection from discrimination, entitlement to certain leaves, and seeking damages.
  3. Economic damages in wrongful termination cases cover lost wages, benefits, future earnings, and job search costs, requiring careful calculation.
  4. Noneconomic damages compensate for emotional distress, reputational damage, and loss of life enjoyment, though harder to quantify.
  5. Punitive damages aim to punish egregious employer conduct and deter future misconduct, not linked to actual losses.
  6. Navigating wrongful termination claims demands skilled legal counsel to assess, gather evidence, negotiate, and litigate for just compensation.

What Are My Rights as a Wrongfully Terminated Employee?

If your employer wrongfully terminated you, California wrongful termination law provides numerous employee protections. Here are some of them:  

  • Right to file a claim. You have the right to file a wrongful termination claim against your employer if you believe your termination was illegal, including terminations that violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws, retaliatory dismissals for whistleblowing, filing a complaint about workplace safety or discrimination, or terminations that go against California’s public policy.
  • Right to be free from discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) make it unlawful for employers to terminate you based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, medical condition, marital status, or pregnancy.
  • Right to leave under certain circumstances. You may take leave for specific reasons covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) without fear of losing your job.
  • Right to seek damages. You have the right to take legal action and seek various damages for wrongful termination, including economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages.

An experienced Los Angeles employment attorney at Tomorrow Law™ can explain these and other rights and assist you in determining the wrongful termination damages you may be entitled to.

What Types of Damages for Wrongful Termination Can I Collect?

Understanding the types of wrongful termination damages available is the first step toward seeking redress. Let’s break them down.

Economic Damages for Wrongful Termination

Economic damages underpin all wrongful termination claims. Their purpose is to compensate you for your direct financial losses resulting from the termination. These may include:

  • Lost wages—including your salary, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of compensation you would have earned if your employment had not unlawfully terminated you;
  • Lost benefits—compensation for lost benefits, including health insurance, retirement contributions, stock options, and other fringe benefits that you would have received as part of your employment;
  • Lost future earnings—compensation for lost earning capacity if the wrongful termination affects your ability to earn similar wages in the future; and
  • Job search costs—reasonable expenses incurred while searching for a new job, such as travel expenses, resume services, and employment agency fees.

Calculating economic damages can be complex and may require considering factors such as your salary history, potential for career advancement, and future earning capacity. Our skilled employment attorneys can help you determine your economic damages and calculate an amount that fairly reflects your current and potential future losses.

Noneconomic Damages for Emotional Distress

Noneconomic damages account for the intangible impacts of wrongful termination. The most common type is compensation for emotional distress, which acknowledges the psychological impact of wrongful dismissal. Although more challenging to quantify, non-economic damages are equally important and may cover:

  • Mental suffering—including anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental anguish resulting from the wrongful termination;
  • Reputational damage—this includes compensation for any harm to your professional reputation; and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life—compensation for a decrease in the quality of your life.

Noneconomic damage amounts can vary widely depending on the severity and duration of your emotional distress, reputational damage, and other losses. Our advocates are skilled at calculating non-economic damages and can help you determine a fair amount.

Punitive Damages for Wrongful Termination

Punitive damages are not compensatory but are meant to punish your employer for egregious conduct and deter similar future misconduct. Factors that may warrant punitive damages include:

  • Discrimination or retaliation. Punitive damages may be appropriate if your employer wrongfully terminated you based on discriminatory motives such as race, gender, age, or disability or in retaliation for exercising your legal rights, such as filing a complaint or participating in protected activities.
  • Gross negligence or recklessness. Punitive damages may be appropriate if your employer’s conduct was particularly appalling, such as engaging in gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct that resulted in your wrongful termination.

Punitive damages are not linked to your actual losses but are calculated based on the abovementioned factors. A skilled advocate at Tomorrow Law™ can review your case and determine if punitive damages are appropriate.  

Bibiyan Law Group, PC Will Fight for a Just Wrongful Termination Settlement

Navigating a wrongful termination case and pursuing damages can be complex and challenging. Luckily, the experienced legal counsel at Tomorrow Law™ can help you understand your rights, evaluate your claims, and seek the compensation you deserve. As your employment attorneys, we’ll assess your termination, gather evidence, negotiate with your employer or their legal representatives, and advocate for your rights in court if necessary. At Tommorrow Law, we’re not just letter-writers—we’re aggressive litigators who fight tirelessly for the outcomes our clients deserve. With top-tier education, decades of specialized experience, and a dedicated team of 20 lawyers and 40 staff members, we have the resources and relationships needed to achieve results. Our firm has a proven track record of success, recovering tens of millions of dollars annually for employees. From unpaid wage settlements reaching $8 million to sexual harassment and wrongful termination settlements to class action settlements totaling over $43M, we fight aggressively for our clients’s rights. Contact us for a free consultation. We don’t just ask for results—we take action to make them happen.

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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