Losing your job can be particularly difficult to cope with if you have been terminated unfairly or have been mistreated by your employer. Most employees in Los Angeles can be terminated without cause or justification. This is because California is an "at-will" state, which means employees can be let go at the employer's will and they don't have to tell you why. Similarly, employees can also quit their jobs without giving a cause or justification.
But, as an employee in Los Angeles, you still have legal protections from being fired for unjust or illegal reasons. In some cases, depending on the nature and circumstances of your situation, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. You may be able to get reinstated, clear your name or even seek monetary compensation for the losses stemming from your wrongful termination. It is important that you seek the counsel of a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer to understand when a firing may be illegal so you can protect yourself.
The Role of Employment Contracts
Not all employees in Los Angeles are considered "at-will." Some employees have job contracts that curb their employer's ability to terminate them. In such situations, employees might be able to claim that they were wrongfully terminated because their employer fired them without a just cause or without reason.
In cases where an employee has a contract, he or she can only be fired if he or she willfully breaches the terms of the contract; consistently neglects his or her job duties specified under the contract; or is unable to perform his or her job duties set forth in the contract for some reason.
Employment contracts may be written or verbal. Typically, such a contract would specify the period of validity or for how long the employer will retain the employee for the services rendered or job performed. Some employment contracts also specify that the employee can be terminated only under the provisions specified by the contract. So, this essentially limits the ability of the employer to fire the employee.
Similarly, employees who are part of a union are also not considered "at-will" employees. Unions typically negotiate an employment contract, which only allows "for cause" terminations. This means that employers can fire employees only if they have a good reason to do so. If you are an employee with a contract, it is important that you review the terms of your contract or contact a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer who can help you understand your options.
Was Your Employer Motivated by an Unlawful Reason?
Employers in Los Angeles may fire their employees for a lawful reason such as failure to perform their job duties, not showing up to work on time, misconduct, etc. However, they are prohibited under the law from firing employees for an unlawful reason such as discrimination. Under the Fair Employment Housing Act or FEHA, it is illegal for employers that have five or more employees from discriminating against employees on the basis of their age, race, color, ethnicity, religion, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and military or veteran status.
An employer cannot target any employee for any of these characteristics or create a hostile work environment for them in an attempt to get them to quit. There are some other categories of people who are protected as well. For example, employers cannot fire employees for speaking a different language in the workplace. These types of issues commonly crop up when an employer, for instance, adopts an English-only requirement in their workplace.
In today's polarized world, it is also important to remember that your employer cannot fire you for having certain political views or engaging in political activities. This means your employer cannot penalize for voting for a certain candidate, choosing to be a member of a certain political party or attending a political rally.
Employees cannot be retaliated against for reporting employers who are engaged in illegal activities. Such employees, also known as whistleblowers, are protected under the law. Here are some of the types of retaliation that may occur, which could then become grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Reporting illegal activities: If you believe or have evidence to show that your employer violated certain laws or government regulations, you cannot be barred from working with or testifying before a governmental agency that may be investigating or prosecuting your employer. Also, your employer cannot fire you for not participating in such illicit activities.
Harassment or discrimination complaints: It is illegal for employers to fire or penalize employees who complain about or report unlawful discrimination or harassment. When an employer does so, that would be considered wrongful termination. Employees cannot be terminated for reporting such activities to an internal department (human resources or supervisors) or an outside governmental agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Unsafe work conditions: Employees also have the right to complain to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about unsafe workplace conditions. Similarly, employers cannot fire employees for filing a workers' compensation claim stemming from an injury sustained on the job.
Taking protected time off: Your employer cannot fire you for taking protected time off such as sick leave or up to 12 weeks of unpaid family or medical leave per year. Such time off is typically granted for caring for sick family members or when employees themselves are suffering from serious health conditions that make them unable to perform their jobs.
Damages in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
You may eligible to receive different types of compensation or relief through a wrongful termination lawsuit including:
Compensatory damages: These are monetary damages to compensate you for unpaid wages or any other harm or losses you may have sustained as a result of your job loss.
Legal costs: Employers who lose a wrongful termination lawsuit are usually required to reimburse the employee's legal costs, which might include cost of expert witnesses, court fees and attorney payments.
Reinstatement: In some cases, the employee may be able to get his or her job back. When this is not possible, the court may award the employee's projected future earnings.
Punitive damages: In some cases, where the employer's actions were particularly egregious, the court may award punitive damages to deter the defendant from committing similar actions in the future or to set an example for other employers.
Los Angeles Wrongful Termination Free Consultation
If you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, the experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley can help you secure maximum compensation for your losses. Call us at 888-500-8469 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation.