Wrongful Termination Attorneys Near You
According to the federal government, workplace discrimination from California employers was on the rise in 2022, with 4404 federal complaints filed. With this figure in mind, having a strong advocate by your side when you are fighting a wrongful termination is crucial.
A wrongful discharge lawyer from King & Siegel LLP can provide the representation you need to make sure your former employer respects your rights and pays for the losses they caused you. We are passionate about safeguarding mistreated employees, and we bring many strengths to the table, including:
- Award-winning advocacy,
- Education from top-five law schools,
- Training from the largest and best firms in the nation,
- A track record of winning millions for our clients, and
- Aggressive and effective representation.
If you are looking for successful lawyers for fired employees, give us a call today. We can obtain the compensation and remedies you deserve.
Protecting Your Right to Work in California
Most employees in California are “at will” employees, which means that your employer does not need a reason to fire you (and you can quit at any time). But there are exceptions to this basic rule.
Your employer cannot fire you for any illegal reason. They cannot fire you because of your race, your gender, your ethnicity, your religion, or your sexual orientation, among other things. They cannot fire you because you complained to your bosses or a government agency about illegal conduct, like sexual harassment or your employer’s illegal business practices. They cannot fire you because you demanded your rightful wages or complained about being misclassified as an independent contractor or as a salaried employee.
Employees who have been wrongfully terminated can collect damages for lost income and the pain and suffering caused by the employer’s misconduct. At King & Siegel LLP, we know how stressful and traumatic it can be to lose a job and your livelihood, and we only represent employees who have faced illegal conduct at work. Our wrongful termination lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for California workers who were illegally fired from their jobs. We are passionate about providing aggressive legal representation for those who have lost their livelihood because of their employer’s illegal action. Contact our wrongful termination lawyers to enforce your right to make a living.
Exceptions To the Employment at Will Doctrine
While most California Employees are “at will,” you may not be an “at will” employee if you have a contract with your employer that provides job protections. Your contract can be in writing or oral. However, the important question is whether you and your employer agreed that you can only be fired for specific reasons or whether your contract lasts for a specified period of time.
Unlawful Reasons for Termination
Even if you are an “at will” employee, your employer cannot fire you for illegal reasons. Some of the most common grounds for wrongful termination claims are age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, or membership in another protected category — these grounds constitute unlawful, discriminatory reasons for termination.
However, discrimination is not the only ground on which one may build a case. Employers often fire their employees when they raise concerns about illegal conduct, including illegal discrimination based on the protected categories listed above. Claims based on retaliation for raising protected concerns are a separate basis for liability from the underlying discrimination or misconduct. Put differently, if you are discriminated against, complain about it, and are fired in retaliation, you have two separate claims: one for discrimination and one for retaliatory termination. This is just an example.
An employer is liable for wrongful termination if they fire an employee for exercising a legal right. You could have a case for wrongful termination if you’ve been fired for:
- Filing a sexual harassment complaint;
- Taking family or medical leave;
- Reporting the unethical or illegal conduct of an employer, such as discrimination;
- Applying for workers’ compensation benefits;
- Reporting or complaining about unsafe working conditions;
- Taking appropriate time off from work to vote;
- Helping a coworker with their wrongful termination or discrimination claim;
- Taking time off to serve on jury duty; and
- Performing military service.
Even if you haven’t been fired, you may still have a claim if you have faced retaliation or harassment for any of these reasons. This is true even if you voluntarily resigned. Let’s take a closer look at some of these unlawful reasons for terminating an employee.
Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint
Sexual harassment is a violation of federal civil law and California law. When you file a sexual harassment complaint, California requires your employer to conduct a swift, comprehensive, and fair investigation. Your employer must also stop the harassment and should discipline the harasser appropriately.
Your employer is not allowed to punish you for making a complaint. This means your employer cannot suspend you from work without pay pending an investigation, they cannot fire you, and they cannot retaliate against you in other ways, such as harassing you, cutting your pay or hours, or threatening your job.
A whistleblower is an employee who reports fraud, abuse, corruption, or dangers to public health and safety either internally or to government officials. Numerous whistleblower laws protect whistleblowers at the federal, state, and local levels.
Certain laws, like the Sarbanes Oxley Act, also allow California employees to sue their employers in federal court if the employer wrongfully terminates or retaliates against them for reporting unlawful conduct.
One example of whistleblowing is when an employee reports criminal activity, such as theft or unethical or unjust behavior in the workplace. An employer may not fire an employee for reporting or refusing to engage in illegal conduct.
Taking Family or Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Sections 105 and 825.220 of the FMLA protect employees who take time off for a legitimate extended medical leave by prohibiting retaliation. Legally, an employer cannot fire you for exercising your FMLA rights.
The California version of the FMLA is called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). It protects employees at workplaces with as few as five people as long as the employee has worked a year and 1,250 hours.
Applying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Under California worker’s compensation law, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee because they filed a workers’ compensation claim or suffered a workplace injury.
REPORTING OR COMPLAINING ABOUT UNSAFE WORKING CONDITIONS
State and federal workplace safety laws require employers to maintain healthy workplaces that are free from hazards. Under either law, an employer might have to sanitize workstations, provide protective gear, and keep machinery in good working order. And if your employer does not follow these rules, you and your fellow employees have a right to complain about the subpar conditions. An employer might not like being exposed for their failure, but they cannot punish you or fire you for filing a safety complaint.
TAKING APPROPRIATE TIME OFF FROM WORK TO VOTE
If you do not have time during your off hours to vote in a statewide election, your boss must give you at least two hours of paid time off to vote. Just like participating in jury duty, exercising your right to vote is an important civic activity, and your employer cannot fire you for properly requesting time off to cast your ballot.
HELPING A COWORKER WITH THEIR WRONGFUL TERMINATION OR DISCRIMINATION CLAIM
When an employee sues or complains against an employer for engaging in an unlawful activity such as discrimination or an illegal discharge, they will likely need witnesses. If you are asked to be a witness regarding a colleague’s claim of workplace misconduct, you have the right to help. While an employer may threaten to ruin or stall your career over your assistance, these threats are illegal, and our wrongful termination attorneys can protect you.
Taking Time Off to Serve on Jury Duty
Jury duty is one of the foundational components of the United States justice system.
As such, an employer must allow an employee time off to serve on a jury. California Labor Code, Section 230 prohibits employers from firing or harassing an employee when a court summons them for jury service.
Performing Military Service
The FEHA prohibits actions that bar or discharge a person from employment or a training program leading to employment based on military or veteran status. Federally, The Uniformed Services Employment Act and Employment Rights Act (USERRA) protects individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service.
Steps You Should Take After a Wrongful Termination
No one wants to be fired from their job, especially under unlawful conditions. There are three essential steps to take immediately after and in the days following your termination.
Remain Professional and Calm
At the moment, you may feel frustrated, upset, and confused; however, staying professional and calm is crucial. Making a scene or having an outburst could only make the situation worse.
You may have emails, notes, phone calls, or other items that could support a wrongful termination claim. Gather what evidence you can to support your claim. Even if you do not have access to much evidence, record the names of potential witnesses and ask for a written letter documenting your termination.
Consult with a Wrongful Termination Lawyer
No matter the reason, you should consult legal counsel to learn about your rights and options if you believe your termination was wrongful. Contact our employment lawyers at King & Siegel LLP. We are happy to answer your questions.
Suing for Defamation
There are two types of workplace defamation: slander and libel. Slander occurs when a person orally says something false about another person. Libel is a written form of defamation. In our electronic age, defamation often happens through email, text messages, and chat rooms. In the workplace, it occurs when a supervisor or co-worker makes false and harmful statements about an employee. Often, this happens after an employee has been wrongfully terminated, and their employer makes up misconduct to justify their illegal acts.
Workplace defamation is a serious matter. Because defamation calls a person’s character into question, it can lead other employees to view the victim negatively. It can also lead to firings- and lost promotions and bonuses, and it can make it difficult for the victim to get a job in the future.
However, it is possible to sue the person or people spreading gossip and falsehoods for damages. But keep in mind that defamation can be challenging to prove. So it’s crucial to hire an experienced wrongful termination lawyer to assist you in holding the defaming party responsible.
What Should I Do After I’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated?
Depending on your case, you may need to file a claim with the appropriate governmental agency. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) provides information on filing a wrongful termination lawsuit with the State of California. You can file your DFEH claim online by creating an account on the California Civil Rights System website, sending an intake form by mail, or calling 1-800-884-1684. The Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains how to file a wrongful termination complaint under federal law. To initiate an EEOC complaint, you can use the EEOC online portal, call 1-800-669-4000, visit an EEOC office in person, or send your complaint by mail. Both agencies can provide what is called a “right to sue” letter that authorizes you to file a civil lawsuit.
For certain types of claims, you may not need to report misconduct to the DFEH or EEOC in order to file a lawsuit. But whatever type of legal action you take, you need to make sure you take action on time. In general, you have only 180 days to file an EEOC complaint and three years to file a DFEH complaint. If your lawsuit is based on a breach of contract, you have two years to sue for the breach of an oral contract and four years to sue for the breach of a written contract. And if you seek damages for defamation, you have one year to file an action against your employer.
Because these technical matters can impact your ability to recover, it’s important to hire an expert employment attorney to guide you.
Compensation for Wrongful Termination Claims
Cases involving wrongful termination can vary in compensation depending on many factors, including the losses you suffered financially and emotionally.
In general, wrongful termination damages can include:
- Lost wages/income—This can include the pay that you would have earned had you not been fired, such as overtime and other unpaid wages;
- Lost benefits—The amount of benefits affected by the termination, such as insurance, retirement, and stocks, can be included in your damages;
- Emotional distress / Pain and suffering—In some cases, it may be possible to recover damages for the emotional distress you suffered as a result of the termination;
- Punitive damages—For employers who acted egregiously in your termination, punitive damages may be awarded by the jury as a way to punish the employer; and
- Attorney’s fees—Your claim may also include attorney’s fees and court costs.
Working with an experienced wrongful termination attorney can help you maximize your chances of success. We at King & Siegel LLP are ready to fight for you.
How Does Wrongful Termination Occur?
Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired or laid off for illegal reasons, such as the employee’s race, religion, age, sex, or other legally protected characteristics.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
Does your employer underpay you? If your employer does not follow wage laws and fires you for requesting adequate pay, that is wrongful termination. But, there are many circumstances that could constitute wrongful termination. Here are just a few examples:
- Being fired so your company can hire someone younger than you,
- Being fired because your boss or coworkers don’t like your nation of origin or race,
- Being let go in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim,
- Getting fired for blowing the whistle on your employer’s wrongful conduct, or
- Being laid off because you are pregnant.
You should seek the advice of a wrongful termination attorney if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated.
If a Termination Is Wrongful, How Can I Tell?
The most obvious way to tell if termination is wrongful is if you are fired for participating in a protected activity or belonging to a protected class. Examples of protected activities include performing military service, jury duty, or reporting wage and hour violations. Protected classes include race, gender, religion, age, disability, and more.
Are Unemployment Benefits Available to Me?
If your termination is wrongful, you might qualify for unemployment benefits. Generally, a fired employee will be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet other criteria imposed by the State of California. Your termination must be through no fault of your own. In other words, if you did something illegal (e.g., assaulting a coworker), you are likely ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Does Wrongful Termination Occur When a Contract Is Breached?
If an employee is not an “at-will” employee and has a contract with their employer, both parties must adhere to the agreement’s full terms until its end date.
If the employer breaches the contract by terminating the employee before it ends, it could be considered wrongful termination. The terminated employee should consult a lawyer to discuss their options.
When I Reported My Employer’s Illegal Activity in the Workplace, I Was Fired Shortly Afterward. Can I File a Claim for Wrongful Termination?
Most likely, yes. There are laws protecting whistleblower employees who report their employer’s illegal activity. You could file a wrongful termination claim if your employer retaliated against you for reporting their unlawful conduct. At King & Siegel LLP, our experienced wrongful termination attorneys can guide you. Contact us to get started immediately.
I WAS REPLACED BY SOMEONE YOUNGER. IS THIS WRONGFUL TERMINATION?
Possibly. If you are 40 or older, your age is a protected characteristic, and you cannot be terminated or disciplined at work because of your age. If an employer fires an employee who is over 40 for no reason and replaces them with a less qualified employee who is under 40, the older employee might have the right to sue or file a complaint with the DFEH or EEOC.
CAN I TAKE LEGAL ACTION IF I WAS FIRED BEFORE MY CONTRACT ENDED DESPITE GOOD PERFORMANCE AND THE ABSENCE OF AN AT-WILL AGREEMENT?
Depending on your contract terms, yes. While the default for employment relationships is at-will employment, employers and employees can enter more binding work agreements that both parties must honor. If your agreement states that your employer can only fire you for misconduct or after a set period of time, and your employer does not comply, you can sue for breach of contract.
WHAT KIND OF LAWYER HANDLES WRONGFUL TERMINATION?
The type of attorney who can provide you with the best representation in a wrongful termination case is an experienced employment attorney. Our experienced employment attorneys know all the intricate state, local, and federal laws and regulations that apply to your employment dispute. We also know how to enforce them to obtain the legal relief you deserve.
Call Our Wrongful Termination Lawyers Today for a Free Case Review
If you believe you were wrongfully fired from your job, reach out to King & Siegel LLP as soon as possible. Our wrongful termination attorneys are here to listen to your side of the story.
- The Equal Pay Act,
- Sexual Harassment,
- Medical & Disability Leave,
- Stock Disputes,
- Wage & Hour Violations, and
- Workplace Retaliation.
If you or a loved one is a victim of wrongful termination, King & Siegel LLP can help. Our wrongful termination lawyers can walk you through the filing process and help you determine how to proceed. We’re here to fight for you and help you attain the justice you deserve. We take your case on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t owe us anything until we win your case. Contact us today!