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“Wrongful termination” refers to the illegal firing of an employee. While this may seem like a straightforward concept, the employment laws in the United States can make it difficult to prove. Most employment throughout the U.S. is on an “at-will” basis. This means the employee can quit at any time for any reason or no reason at all. At-will employment also means that an employer can fire an employee for any legal reason or no reason at all. A fired employee may believe that his or her firing was illegal, but the determining factor is whether the employer based its decision to fire the employee on illegal grounds.
If you or a loved one believe you have been a victim of wrongful termination, please contact Rafii & Nazarian, LLP to discuss your case. You may be eligible for significant compensation for your losses.
Why Choose Rafii & Nazarian, LLP?
The wrongful termination lawyers at Rafii & Nazarian, LLP have the experience, knowledge, and skill to navigate your claim with ease. Employment law is complex, so it’s vital to find an attorney with extensive experience in employment law cases.
The attorneys at Rafii & Nazarian, LLP have more than 100 years combined experience handling personal injury lawsuits and employment law cases for our clients throughout California. Our past clients have secured more than $100 million for their damages. This track record of success and experience with complex employment litigation allows us to provide an unparalleled level of representation in these complicated cases.
We believe in open communication with our clients, so you will stay updated on the latest developments in your case as soon as they happen. Our attorneys also go to great lengths to ensure that we secure as much compensation as possible for our clients. Wrongful termination can be tricky to prove, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States handles wrongful termination claims and other employment-related grievances from employees all over the country.
Your wrongful termination claim will likely involve an EEOC investigation, and your attorney can help you prepare for this as well. Gathering evidence, handling insurance claims, preparing for trial, and contacting expert witnesses are just a few of the ways a Rafii & Nazarian, LLP attorney can help.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
You may be able to navigate the case EEOC claims process on your own, and you will need to file a Charge with the EEOC before proceeding with your lawsuit. The EEOC must notify employers charged in this manner. You could also file a claim through a Fair Employment Practice Agency (FEPA), and these agencies typically “double-file” received complaints with the EEOC.
Your attorney can help you determine if an EEOC claim is appropriate for your situation or if an alternative remedy would be more worthwhile. If the EEOC finds your claim has grounds for legal action, your attorney can help you prepare for your next steps. Ultimately, it is your decision whether to hire an attorney, but doing so greatly increases your chances of success and may lead to more compensation than you would have received on your own.
California Wrongful Termination Laws
Like most of the country, California operates under an at-will basis for employment. However, an employee who loses his or her job for discriminatory reasons or for taking a protected action may have a valid wrongful termination claim. Additionally, if the termination violated an employment contract, the fired employee may have grounds for legal action for breach of contract.
If your employer fired you in violation of an employment contract, it’s important to know what constitutes an employment contract. This could be an oral or written agreement, or the employer may imply a contract in several ways. For example, if the employer states upon your hiring that a firing may only happen under specific circumstances and fires you outside of this scope, you would have a strong claim for wrongful termination.
What Is Discrimination?
Discrimination is the act of basing an employment-related decision on an employee’s protected status, such as age, race, skin color, religion, or sex. California law expands protected statuses to also include gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, medical conditions, political affiliation, and various other individual traits. Ultimately, an employer cannot base any decision around an employee’s hiring, firing, or any other aspect of employment on these protected statuses.
There are also situations in which an employee feels targeted or uncomfortable at work for some reason, leading to the employee leaving the job. If another employee or supervisor creates a hostile work environment because of sexual harassment, ridicule, or other acts that make it impossible for the employee to do his or her job, the employee may be able to pursue a wrongful termination claim against the employer. It’s not uncommon for employees to lose their jobs or face adverse actions for filing complaints about workplace harassment and other issues that create hostile work environments. Those employees need to know which actions qualify for protection under federal and state labor laws, and an attorney can advise them of their best options for legal recourse.
In the legal world, “retaliation” refers to an employer taking punitive or adverse action against an employee in response to the employee performing a protected action. A few examples of protected actions include:
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim. An employer’s premium rates for workers’ compensation insurance coverage may increase after an employee files a claim, and an employer may attempt to dissuade an employee from filing a claim or may interfere with the claims process in other ways to prevent this.
- Testifying as a witness in legal proceedings in which the employer is a defendant. If an employee receives a subpoena to testify under oath and reports any information that reflects poorly upon the employer, the employer cannot take negative action against the employee for doing his or her civic duty and telling the truth.
- “Whistleblowing,” or reporting an employer to a government oversight agency for potentially dangerous violations. Some companies must follow regulations from federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Transportation, or the Environmental Protection Agency. Employees have the right to report compliance violations without fear of reprisals from employers.
- Exercising any legal right allowed by law while an employee, such as freedom of speech, so long as exercising that right does not interfere with company policy or the terms of the employee’s employment contract. For example, if an employee wishes to take a day off work to attend a political rally or event, this should be acceptable as long as the employee went through the proper procedure to request time off from work.
- If the employee repeatedly misses work without approval to attend political events, this would not be a protected action regardless of the employee’s political affiliation. The employee cannot face employment-related penalties for political activities or activism the employee conducts on his or her own time.
Employees’ ability to exercise their legal rights, particularly free speech, has been a hot subject of discussion since the dawn of social media. Many individuals have lost their jobs for comments made on social media, and some have argued that they are responsible for the image of their employer in their online statements. The determining factor in these situations is whether the employee’s social media profile clearly indicates his or her employer. Many companies have adopted social media policies for their employees that state what is or is not acceptable on a profile that lists the company as the person’s employer.
There are several ways an employer may commit retaliation. Some of the most common types of retaliation include firing an employee, demoting an employee, or cutting his or her hours, transferring the employee to a lower-paying position or another workplace without justification, low-performance review scores without justification, or anything else that creates a hostile work environment for the employee.
Proving Wrongful Termination in California
Since California follows an at-will employment statute, a plaintiff must prove that his or her firing was illegal to succeed with a wrongful termination lawsuit. This may require retaining copies of correspondence with coworkers, supervisors, or any other documentation that proves the firing happened on illegal grounds. A California wrongful termination attorney can help a client navigate the EEOC claims system to determine the next best steps.
A wrongful termination lawsuit begins with the initial complaint to the EEOC. Once the EEOC investigates the claim and notifies the subject of the claim, the claimant’s attorney can help with interviews or any other correspondence with the EEOC. If the EEOC determines a wrongful termination occurred they will issue a Right to Sue notice to the claimant, and the claimant has 90 days to take legal action against the employer. If the EEOC does not complete an investigation or issue a Right to Sue within 180 days, federal law compels the agency to issue the Right to Sue notice to the claimant once 180 days have passed.
Handling Your Wrongful Termination Claim
Navigating a FEPA or EEOC claims process can be stressful and confusing, and a qualified employment attorney can help a claimant understand the process and meet the necessary filing deadlines. If a plaintiff receives a Right to Sue notice from the EEOC for his or her complaint, the attorney can then file a lawsuit against the defendant to secure compensation for the plaintiff’s losses.
Damages in wrongful termination lawsuits typically include lost income from wages the employee would have earned if the employer hadn’t illegally fired the employee. Some plaintiffs may be able to secure additional compensation for lost benefits, lost contributions to retirement accounts, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering from a hostile work environment.
If you believe you have a wrongful termination claim in California, the attorneys at Rafii & Nazarian, LLP want to hear your story. Contact our office Call to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We can help you determine whether an illegal firing occurred and give you an estimate of the damages you could receive in a successful lawsuit.