California, and most of the United States, is known as an at-will employment state. This means you could be fired for almost any reason. For example, if your boss does not like you or thinks that you are lazy, then they can go ahead and fire you.
In fact, most employers make employees sign handbooks which explicitly state that the employment relationship is at-will. However, when your employer terminates you without notice and without reason, this leaves most people scratching their head as to what exactly he or she did wrong.
It is important to understand that while California employers have large leeway when it comes to firing an employee, they cannot do so for illegal reasons. If you were fired for an illegal reason, then you can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit to recoup damages that include back pay, front pay, punitive damages, and emotional distress damages.
What Is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination essentially means that you were fired from your job on the basis of a protected characteristic or a protected activity. Protected characteristics/activities include:
- Sexual orientation
- Reporting a violation of law
- Reporting sexual harassment
- Reporting discrimination
- Retaliation for taking family & medical leave
Furthermore, you do not actually have to get fired in order to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit. If your employer created working conditions that were unbearable, so much so that a reasonable person in your situation would be forced to leave, then you may have a constructive discharge claim.
If I Was Not Provided A Reason for Being Fired Does That Mean I Was Wrongfully Terminated? What About Inconsistent Reasons?
If your employer did not provide a reason for your termination, that does not automatically mean you were wrongfully terminated. However, the lack of notice can potentially be significant.
A failure to provide a termination notice or reason when firing someone can show pretext. This means that there was no termination notice because the employer did not want to disclose the real reason for the termination (i.e. an illegal one).
If your employer fired you for no reason at all, this can leave them open to accusations of discriminatory behavior. In effect, this will help prove a wrongful termination case later down the line.
What Do I Do If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?
The first thing you can do if you feel like you were wrongfully terminated is to understand your rights. Here at Miracle Mile Law Group, we have a rich amount of information to inform you of your claims regarding wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation (just scroll up and check out all of our practice areas). Knowledge is power, and when it comes to employment disputes, understanding what your employer did wrong can help you win your wrongful termination case.
The next step is to contact the Human Resources department and request your employment file. In California, employers are required to turn over all personnel records relating to your employment within no less than 35 days. After you receive your file, you may have a better understanding of exactly why you were fired and what the justifications were.
Lastly, you can either contact an attorney to help file a lawsuit on your behalf or you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Keep in mind, there are statute of limitations (the amount of time you have to file lawsuit before you can never bring the claim) in wrongful termination cases. Get in touch with an attorney today to see if your case can still be pursued.
Have a Question?
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding employment disputes, including reasons for termination, employee rights after termination, wrongful termination, disability leave, how much compensation you can recieve, and much more.