Wrongful termination has occurred when a person has been illegally fired or laid off. California is an at-will state, which means employers can terminate an employee without providing cause or justification. Similarly, an employee may also quit anytime. However, wrongful termination is said to have occurred when an employee is terminated because of discriminatory practices in the workplace, if the company violates public policy in the process of terminating the employee, or if the company's own guidelines for termination were not followed.
In addition, there are other reasons such as being fired for blowing the whistle on your employer as you report issues such as lack of safety in the workplace or report some illegal activity in which your employer is engaged. The following are some of the most common examples of wrongful termination in California workplaces.
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment
Sexual harassment is illegal and wrong, but we all know it exists in U.S. workplaces, although these types of incidents are woefully underreported. In some companies, sexual harassment is so rampant and ingrained in the culture that it leads to a hostile work environment where employees struggle to be productive and effectively carry out their job duties. In some cases, employees are forced to quit because they are unable to tolerate the harassment any more.
Sexual harassment should never be tolerated. If you have been sexually harassed at work and believe that you were fired because of it, as retaliation for complaining about it or quit your job because you just couldn't take it anymore, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit seeking compensation not just for monetary damages, but also for the emotional pain and suffering such experiences have caused you. Sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You may be able to receive back pay, get reinstated to your job, and may even be able to obtain punitive damages and compensation for attorneys' fees.
State and federal laws are crystal clear that it is unacceptable for any employee to be treated unfairly because of his or her race or the color of their skin. Racial discrimination in the workplace might include segregating employees of a particular race in certain jobs, making decisions about hiring, firing or promoting employees based on race, racial stereotyping or making distinctions based on skin color. When such discriminatory practices create a hostile work environment or if you are terminated due to racial discrimination or for complaining about it, you may have a valid claim for wrongful termination.
Retaliation Over Workers' Compensation Claims
Retaliation over workers' compensation is another common scenario that could result in wrongful termination. In such cases, employers may fire or lay off an employee after he or she has filed a workers' compensation claim due to an injury suffered on the job. If you have been injured on the job and were fired after trying to apply for or receive workers' compensation benefits because you made the claim for benefits, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.
Employers are also prohibited from firing or threatening to fire employees who testify on behalf of another employee in a workers' compensation proceeding. California courts have also ruled in the past that it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for missing work due to a work-related injury. Similarly, when a worker becomes disabled because of a work-related injury, California law prohibits discrimination based on that disability. It is illegal as well for employers to fire employees for participating in rehabilitation services that are offered as a workers' compensation benefit.
Violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides protected leave from work when employees are ill, need to take care of a loved one who is ill or is caring for or bonding with a newborn or new baby. Employees have the right to return to their job and to be free from retaliation for taking leave. Private employers must have 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks a year to be covered by the law.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked at a job for at least one year and for at least 1,250 hours. Eligible employees can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the following reasons.
- Birth and care of a newborn child.
- Care of an adopted or foster child.
- Caring for a family member who is suffering from a serious medical condition.
- If the employee is suffering from a medical condition that prevents him or her from doing his or her job.
- Caring for a member in the armed forces who is under medical care for a serious injury or illness.
If you were fired as a consequence of taking family or medical leave to which you are entitled under the law, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit. An experienced Los Angeles employment attorney will be able to provide more information about pursuing your legal rights.
Wage and Hour Disputes
If you were fighting against your employer to secure unpaid wages, commissions or overtime and got fired as a result, you may be able file a wrongful termination lawsuit. Wage and hour disputes can be complex and intimidating. But you have legal protections as an employee under California and federal laws. Some of the common wage and hour violations we see include failure to pay minimum wage, not allowing employees to take rest or meal breaks, not paying workers overtime as required under labor laws, and misclassifying workers. If you are filing a wrongful termination lawsuit over wage and hour issues, it would be in your best interest to compile documentation including pay stubs, employment contracts, company policies, schedules, etc. Such documentation can help bolster your claim and serve as valuable evidence.
If you reported illegal activity on the part of your employer and were fired as a result, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit. For example, if you reported sexual harassment in your workplace to the company's human resources department and were fired soon after, that is a sign that your employer fired you as retaliation for reporting the harassment. You may also have been wrongfully terminated if you were fired after blowing the whistle on illicit activity at your workplace such as safety violations, fraud, etc.
Contacting a Wrongful Termination Lawyer
If you have been illegally terminated from your job, the experienced wrongful termination lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We offer a no-win-no-fee guarantee, which means we don't charge you any fees unless you receive compensation. Call us at 888-500-8469 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.