Los Angeles Wrongful Termination Lawyers
In California, employment is generally “at will,” which means that an employer generally has broad discretion in terminating an employee. However, many terminations are still unlawful, especially if the termination violates one of California’s many public policies.
A wrongful termination occurs when someone is fired, dismissed or forced to quit in violation of any law or public policy, or when an employer has violated an existing agreement between the worker and the employer. An employee who has been wrongfully terminated may recover past and future lost wages and benefits, emotional distress damages, and potentially other types of damages.
Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP are dedicated to representing employees who have lost their jobs due to unlawful employment practices and has a successful track record of helping victims of wrongful discharge or forced resignation.
A dismissal from a job may constitute wrongful termination if:
- The termination stemmed from discrimination – If you were fired based on your disability, age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, medical condition or other protected category, this would violate your legal rights.
- The termination was a retaliatory act – If you were fired after reporting or complaining about a wrongdoing or illegal conduct, or after standing up for your protected rights, this would also constitute wrongful termination.
- The termination violated an agreement between you and your employer – If you had a contract with your employer (written or oral) regarding the terms of your employment and your dismissal violates that agreement, you were likely wrongfully terminated.
- The termination otherwise violated your legal rights as a worker – If you were fired because you took time off work that you were legally entitled to take, such as for medical leave, family leave or military service , you would likely have a wrongful termination claim.
Wrongful Termination for Discriminatory Reasons
To win on a claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination, an employee must show that a discriminatory motive influenced the termination decision. However, termination may still be illegal if it was motivated not only by discrimination, but by a combination of discriminatory and legitimate reasons.
Not surprisingly, employers and supervisors rarely admit they had any discriminatory motives. Fortunately, there are many forms of evidence that can be used to show that discrimination had at least some influence on the termination decision, including:
- Previous discriminatory comments by the owner or supervisor
- Timing of the termination decision, such as an employee being fired shortly after reporting an injury or while pregnant
- Evidence of discrimination against other co-workers in the same protected category
- Evidence that other employees outside the protected class received preferential treatment
- Statistical evidence, such as for example, statistic showing the company’s older employees being terminated in greater numbers than younger employees
- Weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, or contradictions in the employer’s supposed non-discriminatory reasons for the termination. For example, if the employer previously praised an employee’s communication skills and then terminated that employee on the grounds of poor communication, this may constitute evidence that poor communication was a mere pretext
- Evidence that the employer violated its own company policy and procedures in terminating the employee, such as for example, the employer’s policy requiring a written warning and/or investigation prior to termination and the employer ignoring this requirement
Wrongful Termination for Retaliatory Reasons
State and federal laws offer protections to encourage employees to report wrongdoing and to stand up for their rights without fear of losing their jobs. It is unlawful for companies to fire employees for engaging in any of the following protected conduct:
- Complaining about or reporting discrimination
- Complaining about or reporting sexual harassment or other unlawful harassing conduct
- Complaining about labor code violations, such as unpaid wages, misclassification as independent contractors, etc.
- Complaining about or reporting unsafe working conditions
- Requesting benefits to which an employee is entitled, such as overtime pay or medical leave
- Reporting company violation of any laws to either an outside law enforcement agency or government authority, or to someone in the company with authority to correct the violation
- Refusing an employer’s order to engage in an illegal activity or do something that would violate a law
The standard for proving retaliatory wrongful termination is the same as for wrongful termination based on discrimination. Typically, the most powerful evidence in retaliation claims is a timeline of events showing direct connection between an employer’s complaint and his or her termination. Just as with termination based on discrimination, other persuasive evidence in retaliation cases includes inconsistencies or contradictions in the employer’s supposed non-retaliatory reason for termination, or the employer’s violation of its own internal policies and procedures.
Wrongful Termination in Breach of Contract
An employment contract is most often written out formally, but can also be sometimes implied from emails or other communications between the parties. Claims for wrongful termination in violation of contract are typically straightforward. The most common scenario involves the employee entering into a contract with a company for a specified number of years, and the employer terminating the employee before the term of the contract has expired.
An employer sued for breach of contract will often attempt to argue that it was justified in terminating the employee prior to the contract’s expiration because the employee has failed to perform. An employee can overcome this argument by demonstrating that the employer’s justification is a pretext, and that the employee satisfactorily performed his or her duties under the contract. An employee’s case can be further strengthened by a showing that the employer could have another likely motive for the termination, such as the company not doing well financially or undergoing restructuring.
If the terminated employee also demonstrates that the employer never truly planned to keep the employee for the entire duration of the contract, the employee might also have independent claims for fraud.
Although wrongful termination usually involves an actual firing of an employee, under certain circumstances, an employee who resigned rather than being formally terminated may still bring a claim for constructive termination. California law recognizes claims for constructive discharge where an employer made working conditions so intolerable for an employee that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign.
The typical examples of constructive termination involve harassing, discriminatory or retaliatory acts that fall short of termination but still make working conditions unbearable, such as the employer cutting back on employee hours, cutting back on rate of pay, demoting an employee, or failing to prevent harassment against an employee .
While an employer will generally not disclose an illegal reason for termination, one of our employment attorneys can evaluate the facts of your case to determine whether you may have a claim. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you can turn to an experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers to discuss your case. To find out more about how we can help, contact us at (310) 575-2550 or email us for a quick response.
With office locations in Los Angeles and San Bernardino, our attorneys provide legal service and representation to clients throughout California.