Losing your job can be devastating, especially when it happens when you have done nothing wrong. We represent clients across industries who have been wrongfully terminated. Contact Ferraro Vega at (619) 693-7727 to schedule a free consultation with a San Diego wrongful termination lawyer who can help you.
If you were terminated because you belong to a protected class, because you experienced workplace harassment, or in retaliation, you may have legal recourse. California is an at-will state, but sometimes termination may be illegal.
How Our San Diego Employment Lawyers Can Help with Your Wrongful Termination Case
Employment law is complex, especially when it comes to the reasons an employee may or may not be terminated. While California employers have a great deal of discretion over hiring and firing, the law clearly protects employees from a range of abusive practices and illegal forms of termination.
Proving a wrongful termination case is not as easy as it may seem, however. Wrongful termination is not always obvious and employers rarely state their reason for termination is due to discrimination or retaliation. This is where a San Diego employment lawyer can help.
Ferraro Vega focuses entirely on employment litigation. Our wrongful termination attorneys in San Diego, California gained valuable experience working with top law firms in the United States. We put our expertise to work for you to investigate your case, help you gather crucial evidence, and ensure the necessary steps are taken to protect your case.
When you choose Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers to help with your wrongful termination case, you can count on us to:
- Offer sound legal advice
- Investigate your case and assist with gathering evidence
- Make sure the correct steps are taken following termination as some claims require first making a complaint with a government agency
- Represent you during negotiations or mediation with your employer
- File a lawsuit to seek damages
You do not have to face the complicated legal process of a wrongful termination claim alone. When your employer violates your rights under state and federal laws, the labor lawyers at Ferraro Vega are here to help you. Contact our Southern California law office today to schedule a free case review to explore your legal options.
What Is Wrongful Termination in San Diego?
California is an at-will state. This means employers can typically fire employees for any reason (or no reason) at any time. However, there are important exceptions. If an employee is fired for an illegal reason, it’s known as wrongful termination and the employer may be open to a lawsuit.
There are several illegal reasons to terminate someone in San Diego. A wrongful termination claim can arise when an employer terminates an employee in violation of state and/or federal law.
Types Wrongful Termination Claims in California
Wrongful termination can occur in many ways as federal and California law expressly prohibit termination for many reasons. The following are ways in which a termination may be wrongful.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment
Even though California is an at-will state, there are many exceptions under which termination is wrongful or illegal.
These exceptions are:
- An implied contract to not terminate you without good cause. This does not necessarily need to be an employment contract or signed agreement. An implied contract can be made by issuing an employee handbook with specific reasons employees may be terminated or informing an employee they will not be fired unless they do or do not do certain things.
- Beach by the employer of an implied covenant of good faith.
- Fraud or misrepresentation.
- Wrongful termination that violates public policy, such as firing someone for refusing to break the law.
An employment contract can play a role in whether an employee is even considered “at-will.” An employment contract can limit an employer’s ability to fire someone. Depending on the language of the employment contract, the employee may have a wrongful termination claim if their employer did not have good cause to terminate them.
Employees who are part of a union are also generally not considered at-will employees. Unions generally negotiate employment contracts that only allow “for cause” termination.
These exceptions are not the only way a termination may be unlawful.
Constructive Wrongful Termination
Even if you are not actually fired, you may have a wrongful termination claim if you were forced to quit your job. Constructive termination happens when an employee quits due to intolerable work conditions. If your treatment or work conditions were bad enough that a reasonable person would be expected to quit, it’s still crucial to take certain steps.
Before quitting, you are expected to use the reporting system available through your employer to attempt to resolve the issue. If, after complaining, conditions are not addressed, you may have the right to quit and seek damages for constructive termination.
Note that, to sue your employer, the employer must have intentionally created or knowingly allowed the intolerable work conditions.
One of the largest exceptions to at-will employment is adverse employment action based on an employee’s protected characteristics. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) expands on federal protection against discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by defining the following as protected classes:
- National origin
- Age (40 and over)
- Medical condition
- Genetic information
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Military or veteran status
- Marital status
- Citizenship status
- Victim of stalking or domestic violence
Firing an employee for any of these protected characteristics is considered wrongful termination in San Diego County. It is also illegal to fire an employee who files a complaint or opposes harassment or discrimination or assists in an investigation.
California law prohibits workplace retaliation in many ways. One of the most common forms of retaliation is termination. For example, an employer may retaliate and wrongfully terminate an employee who will not lie to a government agency to protect the employer or an employee who blows the whistle on dangerous work conditions.
It’s important to note that the law protects you against any type of negative employment action in retaliation, not just termination. This can include an unfavorable work assignment, demotion, or pay reduction in retaliation for protected activities.
A common type of wrongful termination that is in violation of public policy is retaliating against a whistleblower. Under California law, employers cannot retaliate against an employee who reports suspected violations of the law to a government agency, supervisor, or employee with authority to investigate. Retaliation can include termination along with any other adverse employment actions.
Violation of Public Policy
Wrongful termination that violates public policy happens when an employee is fired for a reason that may not be technically illegal but violates fundamental public policy. Employers have a duty to know the fundamental public policy of the country and state.
The basic requirements of an action that violates public policy are:
- The policy is supported by a constitutional or statutory provision,
- The policy benefits society at large,
- The policy is well-established when the employee is terminated, and
- The policy is substantial or fundamental.
Common examples are when an employee is terminated because they refuse to engage in illegal or harmful behavior or sign a contract that is unenforceable or illegal. This type of wrongful termination can also include termination based on discrimination.
Other Types of Wrongful Termination
There are other ways in which a wrongful termination may occur. For example, you may have a claim if you were terminated for protected political speech or activities. California labor law prohibits employers from controlling or directing the political actions of employees.
The WARN Act may apply if you were laid off without sufficient notice. The California WARN Act requires employers to give 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff of at least 50 employees or relocating or closing a facility.
Other wrongful grounds for termination in San Diego include:
- Taking protected FMLA leave.
- Taking time off work for activities related to the employee’s rights as a victim of certain crimes under California Labor Code Section 230.5.
- Lawful conduct during non-working hours off the employer’s premises under California Labor Code Section 96(k).
- Disclosing information about harmful conditions such as failure to pay commissions under California Labor Code Section 232.5.
- Taking time off work for jury duty under California Labor Code Section 230(a).
If you believe you were terminated for any of the above reasons, contact a San Diego wrongful termination attorney at Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers right away. We will help you take the next steps and file a complaint and lawsuit for the damages you deserve.
What Damages Available in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in California?
The damages you may seek in a wrongful termination claim will depend on the type of case.
If you are successful in suing your employer for wrongful termination in violation of public policy – including firing based on discrimination – you may be entitled to:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Emotional distress and pain and suffering
You may also be entitled to attorney’s fees but only if your case arises from specific statutes allowing for this type of award. This includes wrongful termination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Punitive damages may be available in rare cases as well. You may also have the right to be reinstated to your job, but this will only be granted if the job is available and will not create a hostile work environment.
Because damages you can recover depend on the type of wrongful termination case you have, it’s important to consult with a wrongful termination attorney in San Diego, CA to better understand what your case may be worth.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a San Diego Wrongful Termination Lawyer
Have you been wrongfully terminated by your employer? Whether you have faced retaliation, discrimination, or termination based on another illegal reason, you have protection under state and federal law. A San Diego wrongful termination lawyer can help you protect your rights, file a claim for the damages you deserve, and hold your employer accountable.
Contact Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today to discuss your case.