Is Wrongful Termination Difficult to Prove?

California is an at-will work state. That means an employer can generally terminate an employee at any time and for any (legal) reason. However, even in an at-will work state, some terminations are illegal.

Proving wrongful termination can be challenging. With the help of an employment attorney, you have a better chance of winning your case than if you try to go it alone.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Federal and state employment laws protect employees from discrimination, harassment, and other wrongful acts in the workplace. If an employer violates one or more of these laws when they terminate an employee, the employer can be held liable for damages and other penalties. 

What Are Examples of Wrongful Termination in California? 

Being fired can be devastating. Being fired for an illegal reason can give rise to a wrongful termination lawsuit

Examples of wrongful terminations include:

  • Terminations of employment that violate public policy, such as firing someone for serving jury duty or refusing to commit an illegal act
  • Breaching an employment agreement 
  • Firing an employee without cause when their implied contract with the employer only permits for-cause terminations
  • Terminations of employment involving misrepresentation or fraud
  • Firing an employee based on a protected characteristic under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or the Federal Civil Rights Act
  • Creating a hostile work environment to force the employee to quit (constructive termination)
  • Terminating employment because an employer filed a whistleblower complaint or cooperated with an investigation
  • Firing an employee in retaliation for an action, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim 
  • Terminating an employee based on that employee’s political views or rights to free speech
  • Laying off workers in violation of the WARN Act, which requires some employers to give at least 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff
  • Terminating employment because an employee used FLMA time or took time off provided by the California Labor Code

The above list is just a sample of wrongful terminations. If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, you should consult with a San Diego wrongful termination lawyer. You need to understand your legal rights after termination, and you need to know what to do next to protect those rights.

Proving Wrongful Termination – Tips You Need to Know

It can be challenging to prove that the reason your employer fired you was illegal. However, it is possible. Below are tips that can help you prove your wrongful termination case:

Gather Evidence

Make copies of all written communications that relate to your employment termination. Also, make copies of all correspondence that praises you for your work or gives you positive performance feedback. 

Other evidence you will need includes:

  • Employee handbooks
  • Memos
  • Personnel file
  • Union contracts
  • Employment contracts
  • Your resume
  • Workplace policies
  • Job evaluations
  • Employment application
  • Pay advices
  • Termination notice

You may not be able to gather all of the relevant evidence, but try to obtain as much as possible for your lawyer. If you can’t get certain information, your attorney should be able to subpoena the documents once you file your wrongful termination lawsuit.

Create a Written Summary

Write down everything you can remember regarding your employment termination. Create a timeline of the events that led up to your termination. Include names of witnesses and people who would have been involved in each event, including co-workers, supervisors, managers, and HR personnel.

Try to remember exactly what was said during meetings and discussions. Write down as many key phrases as you can recall from each meeting or conversation.

Contact an Employment Lawyer

Contact a wrongful termination attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible. There are deadlines and procedures for filing wrongful termination claims. The reason for your firing could impact the deadlines and process.

Witness Statements and Statements From Other Victims 

You do not need to gather witness statements, but you do need to let your lawyer know about witnesses and what they saw or heard. Your attorney can obtain witness statements.

The same applies to statements from other victims. If you know of other employees fired for the same or similar reasons, make sure that you give a list of names to your San Diego employment lawyer

Filing a Wrongful Termination Complaint

You may be able to resolve your dispute by filing a complaint with the correct government agency. You and your employer may be able to use mediation or other forms of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) to reach an out-of-court settlement.

However, there are cases in which a wrongful termination lawsuit must be filed to protect your best interest. If that is the case, your lawyer handles preparing and filing the lawsuit, engaging in discovery, participating in settlement negotiations, and aggressively arguing the case at trial.

Your first step is to seek legal advice to determine if your employer broke the law by firing you. If so, you could be entitled to compensation for your lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages.