Instances of wrongful employment termination can not only put an employee’s career at risk but bring significant emotional distress and financial hardships for them and their family.
Unfortunately, as an employee, there is no sure-fire method to prevent an employer from firing you. As per the United States labor law, employment at will refers to an arrangement where an employee is free to quit his job at any time they wish without notice. Likewise, the employer can terminate the employee at any point and for any reason. Some employers require employees to sign an agreement that contains a provision that explicitly states that the employee is an at-will employee.
Employers can let go of an employee due to downsizing, bankruptcy, or perhaps no reason. However, some specific reasons are against the law to terminate an employee and may lead to a potential lawsuit.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
While all 50 states in the US follow at-will employment rules, many impose certain exceptions. States like California have put together a list of reasons that are considered off-limits for employers and constitute a wrongful termination case, despite its at-will employment laws.
It is unlawful to dismiss a worker for a prohibited reason, such as on discriminatory grounds like their race, gender, age, or ethnicity. It is also illegal to fire an employee in retaliation for reporting harassment; or because they exercised a legal right like reporting unlawful behavior or assisting in an investigation. Lastly, an employee can not be dismissed in breach of the employment contract. These rights of an employee are protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Accordingly, violating these exceptions can expose an employer to a wrongful termination lawsuit, which could end in the victim getting compensated for damages or reinstatement of their job.
How To Protect Yourself From Wrongful Termination?
Many of us depend upon our jobs for our livelihood and to sustain our families. As mentioned by an employment attorney in Los Angeles, any wrongful adverse employment decision can put a substantial emotional and financial strain upon the victim. Fortunately, California’s laws allow victims terminated for unlawful reasons to file a complaint against their wrongful dismissal.
Here are some essential tips regarding initiating legal actions against your employer to help back up your claim against your employer and protect your legal rights.
Know the Reason
The first and foremost step you must follow is to understand your reason for dismissal. Meet your HR manager or supervisor and ask them about what led them to let go of you. Often, employers will aim to provide a face value reason instead of a specific one.
However, there could also be a possibility of a deeper; or perhaps illegal reason which you may not be aware of but may suspect. Therefore, listen carefully to the explanation about what led to your termination. Remember, certain protected activities prohibit an employer from firing you.
Gathering as much supporting evidence about your case will maximize your chances of success. Get hold of any written records, like complaints you had made to your supervisor; as it could be of immense help to establish whether you were involved in any protected activity.
Note down any circumstances that you believe may have contributed to the termination and the timeline of events as they happened. Document everything like the exact dates and times, people’s names, emails, or any eyewitnesses present during any incidence.
File an Administrative Complaint
An employee must file an administrative complaint with a regulatory agency before taking the matter to court. The most relevant agency in California where you can file a complaint is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If it believes that you have a valid claim, you can proceed to file a court action.
Contact Your Attorney
If the regulatory agency could not help make a settlement with your employer, consulting your lawyer to help secure fair compensation for your claim is your best bet.
An experienced attorney will go through your case and determine whether or not you have a strong claim and what result you can expect out of it. They will also suggest if it may be a better idea to talk about making a settlement rather than suing your employer.
Legal counsels of large corporations will go to lengths to undermine your claim in a bid to deny or reduce the compensation to which you are entitled. Only a qualified, experienced employment attorney with extensive courtroom experience will be able to stand up to their tactics and work aggressively to help you get the justice you deserve.
As mentioned, it can be very stressful and frustrating for an employee to lose their job for no valid reason. While there is no way to prevent an employer from firing you in an at-will state, California’s employment laws protect employees’ rights under statutes like FEHA.
That provides you the opportunity to take court action against an employer if you believe you were fired illegally from a job. However, it is vital to do so quickly. There is a limited period in which you may file a lawsuit, which is typically three months to six years at maximum.