I Was Just Fired. How Do I Know If It Was Wrongful Termination?
It can be hard to know if you were wrongfully terminated because most employers will come up with some reason they claim is legitimate for firing an employee. If you are fired after reporting an employment issues such as unpaid wages, then it might be wrongful. If you were fired after reporting illegal behavior from your employer to law enforcement or to some government authority, then it might be wrongful. Not every case of wrongful terminated is going to be so blatant, but in every case, there could be some evidence of a wrongful termination.
What Are Protected Classes?
Under federal law, certain employees are protected. That means they cannot be fired on the basis of their:
- Age (40 or older)
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity and expression
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Religion or religious practices
- National origin
- Political affiliation
In addition to those federal protections, California has some of the most comprehensive and protective laws for employees in the nation. In California, an employee cannot be fired on the basis of their:
- Race or color
- Ancestry or national origin
- Religion or creed
- Age (over 40)
- Mental or physical disabilities
- Breastfeeding status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Medical condition
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Military and veteran status
If you believe that you have been terminated for any of the above reasons, then you may be able to sue your employer for wrongful termination. Consult with an experienced wrongful termination attorney in Los Angeles, California who can tell you what your rights are.
What are Potential Damages Against My Former Employer that I Could Receive if I Win a Wrongful Termination Case?
If you sue your former employer for wrongful termination, then you could recover damages in the form of lost wages and benefits. For example, imagine that you were unlawfully fired from your job and that it took you 4 months to find a new job. The courts may award you 4 months’ worth of salary and benefits that you would have received during those months that you weren’t working.
You may also be entitled to compensation for any emotional distress you suffered if the circumstances of your firing were severe and caused you to seek medical treatment. The courts may also mandate to the employer that you must be given your job back.
The amount of damages that can potentially be recovered depends on the facts of each specific case. A wrongful termination attorney in Los Angeles, California will be able to give you an estimate of how much your case may be worth.
What Does it Mean to Be an At-will Employee?
The general rule in California is that all employees are considered to be “at-will” employees unless they have a contract that says otherwise.
That means, that as an employee, you can decide, at any time and for any reason, that you no longer want to work for your employer and you can quit. On the flip side, being an at-will employee means that your employer can decide at any time and for any reason that they don’t want you working for them anymore and they can fire you.
Even though employers don’t need a good reason to terminate an at-will employee, they are prohibited from terminating employees for unlawful reasons as described above.
Of course, not all employees are considered “at-will.” Some employees have contracts that limit their employer’s ability to fire them. For example, employees who are part of a union are usually not “at-will” employees. Unions normally negotiate an employment contract that permits only “for cause” terminations. This means that employees may only be let go if the employer has a good reason.
What Do I Do If I am Terminated?
If you believe that you were the victim of a wrongful termination, then here are some tips that can help you.
- Document everything: Even though you may be angry or in shock, take a few minutes to write down how you were fired, what your employer said, and the reasons given for your firing. These facts will help your attorney determine if you have been wrongfully terminated and can be important if your case winds up in court.
- Review your contract: Your employer may be in violation of the contract, even if you are given what seems to be a lawful reason to terminate employment.
- Act professionally: Remain calm and act civilly at all times. Don’t scream or make threats no matter how angry you may be. Acting out against your employer and using uncivil language will make it harder to recover damages later.
- Don’t retaliate: Resist the temptation to steal things on your way out, badmouth the company on social media, or destroy company property. These actions will make it much more difficult to collect damages in a lawsuit.
- Contact a wrongful termination attorney: Keep in mind that the deadline to file a claim or a lawsuit can be short. If you can sense that you may be fired soon, then contact a lawyer before you are terminated. If the firing comes as a surprise, then then reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible after the filing.
Wrongful termination can have far-reaching consequences, and you may be able to recover if your employer has terminated you for unlawful reasons.
For more information on wrongful termination, schedule an initial consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Los Angeles, California. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling the Fair Employment Lawyers at Kaplan Weiss LLP (213) 257-8999 today.
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