Whether you landed your dream job or have been comfortably employed at the same workplace for years, being fired can come as a complete shock. This is especially true if you can’t understand why you were let go. Even worse, you may suspect or know you were fired in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons, which would constitute a wrongful termination.
If you believe you were unjustly fired from your job without cause, the employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm can help. Call us at 800-818-1818 for a free consultation today. We have the experience and track record to make sure your rights are protected from unscrupulous employers.
Below you’ll find out more information about being fired without cause, your rights if you are let go and how The Dominguez Firm can help.
What Exactly Does it Mean to be Fired With or Without Cause?
Being fired without cause means an employee is being let go, but not because of any serious workplace misconduct. Conversely, being fired with cause means the employee committed a serious breach of conduct in their workplace, which led to their termination.
Legally acceptable examples of being fired without cause:
- A company that needs to downsize its workforce due to financial problems.
- Wanting to replace a current employee with a family member.
- Letting someone go simply because the employer doesn’t like them or feels they don’t mesh with other employees in their department.
Legally acceptable examples of being fired with cause:
- Stealing from the employer
- Drug or alcohol use or possession at work
- Attendance issues, such as being late all the time or taking too many sick days
- Poor job performance
- Violating company policy regarding:
- Social media posts
- Office dating
- Conduct in the office
- Misuse of company property, such as going on vacation with a company car
- Damaging company property
Is California an At-Will State and What Does that Mean?
Yes, California is an at-will state. Legally, that means an employer can terminate an employee for any reason and without warning. The opposite is true as well. Any employee can quit without giving notice and for any reason.
However, there are important exceptions to this law in the Golden State, as you’ll see in the next section.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Termination?
If an employee is terminated for exercising their rights or because of discrimination, they likely have a wrongful termination claim.
Examples of an unlawful termination:
- Being fired for being part of a protected class
- Retaliation for reporting unsafe workplace condition
- Retaliation for reporting illegal workplace activities
- Retaliation for taking family or medical leave
- Retaliation for reporting to jury duty
- Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment
- Retaliation for refusing to engage in illegal or unsafe acts
- Pregnancy discrimination
These are just some examples of wrongful termination. If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated but don’t see your situation in the list above, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. Call us for a free consultation today.
What is Considered a Protected Class?
California employers can’t discriminate against employees who share a specific characteristic. These employees are classified as being in a protected class.
California protected classes:
- Age (40 and over)
- Criminal record
- Disabled employees
- Domestic violence or stalking victims
- Genetic information
- Needing to take family leave
- Gender/Gender identity
- Marital status
- Military status
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
A note on age discrimination; employees over the age of 40 are classified as being part of a protected class; younger employees are not. As an example, if an older employee was repeatedly passed over for promotions then fired, they would likely have a wrongful termination lawsuit. A younger employee in the same situation would not unless they were part of a different protected class.
An example of an employee in the genetic information protected class would be someone who is wrongfully fired when management finds out Parkinson’s Disease runs in their family.
Does My Employer Have to Tell Me Why I Was Fired?
No law in California requires an employer to tell an employee why they were fired unless there is an employment contract. At-will employees, which make up the majority of workers in California, aren’t contract employees.
An exception is some union employees. They can request an explanation for their termination if their union-negotiated it in their collective bargaining agreement.
Generally, employers will tell an employee why they were fired to avoid lawsuits or have their workplace seen as undesirable. Whether that explanation is fair can be open to interpretation.
My Employer Says They Won’t Release My Final Paycheck Until I Sign a Termination Letter. Is that Legal?
No. Employers can’t demand a fired employee sign a termination letter as a condition to getting their final paycheck. This is illegal. In California, your employer must pay you all compensation due to you from the moment you were fired. This includes any unpaid vacation time, whether you sign any company documentation or not.
If the employee quits without notice, the employer has 72 hours to pay them any outstanding compensation due to them. If the employee did give notice, then they must receive their final paycheck on their last day of work.
Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination if I Quit Because of Intolerable Work Conditions?
It depends. If your employer has made conditions intolerable for you hoping you’ll quit, you may have a wrongful termination lawsuit for constructive discharge. This occurs when an employer illegally creates a toxic, difficult environment for a particular employee so that they’ll quit instead of having to fire them.
The good news is California recognizes constructive discharge to be a form of wrongful termination. The not-so-good news is the standard of proof can be quite high. Any combination of the following could qualify as a constructive discharge, where the employee quit due to harsh, abusive workplace conditions:
- Constant verbal abuse of the employee
- Intimidation of the employee, including insults and threats
- Sexual, verbal, and/or physical harassment of the employee
- Being given unfavorable shifts or hours
- Being given a pay cut
- Being transferred to a remote location
- Harsh performance evaluations
- Being given a demotion for no apparent reason
- Giving the employee dangerous assignments that put them at risk
If your employer has taken any of these actions against you, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Note that one action, such as having a supervisor who often shouts at their employees probably isn’t grounds for a lawsuit, even if it is stressful. A free consultation with The Dominguez Firm can help clarify whether you have a claim or not.
My Employer Fired Me for Reporting Unsafe Work Conditions. Can The Dominguez Firm Help Me?
Yes. If you were fired for reporting unsafe work conditions, you may have two possible claims, one for wrongful termination and another one for retaliation. Other examples of firing as a form of retaliation include:
- Reporting illegal activity by your employer
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Filing a wage and hour claim against your employer
- Filing an OSHA complaint
- Reporting a labor code violation, such as a lack of meal breaks
If you suspect or know your employer fired you in retaliation for something you reported or filed, call the employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm now for a free consultation. You can reach us at 877-924-2639.
I Was Just Fired Without Cause. Is There Anything I Should Do Right Away?
If you believe you were unjustly fired without cause, there are certain steps you should take before you leave your workplace:
Gather all documents that support your claim that you were wrongfully terminated. This includes evidence that supports your claim:
- Company documents that are evidence
- Text messages
- Video evidence
- Eyewitness accounts
- All documentation between you and human resources
After you’ve done all of this, contact the employment lawyers at The Dominguez Firm right away to see if you have a case. This is an important step. Don’t wait since waiting can hurt your claim.
What is My Wrongful Termination Case Worth?
No two wrongful termination cases are the same, so there is no magic number that answers this question. However, our employment attorneys can compare your case to similar ones they’ve dealt with in the past to get a general idea of what your case may be worth.
If it is determined that you were fired without cause illegally, you could collect certain damages (the legal term for the compensation you would be entitled to). These can include:
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits, including stock options
- Lost promotions
- Damage to your professional reputation
- Emotional distress
- Your legal fees
If you were fired for discriminatory reasons, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant more to punish your employer. They make an example of your employer in an attempt to stop them and other companies from acting in a similar manner in the future.
It’s rare, but some fired employees ask to be reinstated. This happens more frequently with government employees who risk losing benefits and pensions if they don’t accumulate a certain number of years on the job.
How Can The Dominguez Firm Help Me?
The Dominguez Firm has over 30 years of experience handling employment law cases throughout Southern California. In that time our award-winning team of in-house litigation employment attorneys has helped thousands of clients who were unfairly fired from their jobs obtain justice.
Call us at 877-924-2639 for a free consultation regarding your case today. If we can help, you don’t have to worry about any upfront, out-of-pocket, or hidden fees. We get paid from a percentage of your final settlement or verdict. That amount will be clearly stated in the client representation agreement you sign with us.
You have nothing to lose and so much to gain from hiring The Dominguez Firm to represent you for your employment law case. And we stand by our promise: if there is no recovery, there is no fee, so call us today!