Wrongful termination occurs when a person is fired or laid off for unlawful reasons such as discrimination, reporting California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) violations, whistleblower actions, contract violations, public policy violations, filing of workers’ compensation claims or reporting work injuries, California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) violations, taking leave, or filing wage and hour complaints. Wrongful termination claims can be a big deal because people could be entitled to many different kinds of economic damages and noneconomic damages as well as possible punitive damages in a limited number of cases.
It is important to note that the California WARN Act is slightly different from the federal WARN Act in that it applies to more laid-off employees, including mass layoffs, terminations, and relocations. Anybody who believes they might have a wrongful termination claim should be certain to contact an experienced Los Angeles small business attorney as soon as possible.
It is important for people to remember that California is considered an at-will employment state, meaning any employer can legally fire an employee for any reason or possibly even no reason at all. Wrongful termination will involve an employer terminating an employee for an unlawful reason.
Some of the most common causes of wrongful termination claims include people being fired when they are members of a protected class. A person cannot be fired because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (over 40), disability, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, aids/hiv positive status, medical condition, political activities or affiliations, military or veteran status, being a victim of domestic violence, assault or stalking, citizenship status, or possibly height and weight in certain cities.
It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who file complaints about harassment, assist in any investigation relating to harassment, or simply oppose harassment. California also prohibits employers from firing employees for joining a labor union or participating in union activities.
California Labor Code § 1102.5 establishes that an employer cannot make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency. This is the state law protecting whistleblowers.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 protects employees at publicly-traded companies and allows them to file wrongful termination claims if their employers fire them for reporting suspected securities fraud to the federal government or a supervisor. The California False Claims Act also allows employees to sue employers for employers committing fraud or embezzlement with respect to government funds.
Public policy violations may involve employees refusing to violate the law for an employer. Many people can be terminated for filing workers’ compensation claims, and this is also illegal.
Under the California WARN Act, an employer must provide their employees with 60 days’ notice before conducting a mass layoff of 50 or more employees, or before closing or relocating a facility, and the law applies to all employers with at least 75 employees. When an employer does not provide 60 days notice, then a person could have a wrongful termination claim.
When an employee takes family medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), wrongful termination will be presumed if an employer fires a worker within 30 days of a worker requesting to use paid sick leave, or within 90 days of returning from FMLA leave. Similarly, people cannot be fired for filing wage and hour violations.
The statute of limitations for a wrongful termination claim can vary depending on the type of claim you are filing. People only have 180 days to file a complaint with United States Department of Labor for whistleblower claims under Sarbanes-Oxley Act, two years for violations of implied oral contracts or public policy claims, and three years for whistleblower claims under California Labor Code § 1102.5, FEHA claims, and WARN Act claims.
Possible damages in a wrongful termination case can include such economic damages as lost wages and attorney fees, noneconomic damages such as emotional distress and pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages. Punitive damages are much more rare, and are typically only awarded when a court wants to punish an employer for particularly egregious and reprehensible conduct.
If you were recently fired for reasons you do not think are legal, you will want to be sure you retain legal counsel as soon as possible to get help with your claim. Steinberg Law handles all kinds of wrongful termination cases and will be able to represent you in whatever action you need to take.
Our firm serves clients throughout the greater Los Angeles area. You can call (818) 855-1103 or contact our Los Angeles small business attorney online to schedule a free consultation.