What can I do if I am fired from my job in California?
Getting fired from your job is obviously a very stressful event. What you’re going to see is that there are many ways that California law protects you. You may have a claim for illegal termination, discrimination, wrongful termination, hostile workplace, unpaid wages, and/or failure to pay timely wages at time of termination.
If you were fired from you job, you may have a lot of questions, like these:
Do I have a claim for wrongful termination?
What can I recover if I have been wrongfully fired from my job in California?
What are California’s wrongful termination laws?
Have I been wrongfully fired from my job?
What are my legal rights to compensation if I have been fired from my job in California?
This article answers all of these questions and more.
As it turns out, there is a lot that you can do if you're fired from your job in California. The first thing you need to do is to determine if you being fired was unfair or illegal. If so, then you need to decide if you are going to do anything about it. Doing nothing means that you won't be able to receive compensation for being fired unfairly. It means the company is going to get away with it.
Assuming you do choose to do something about, then you will have a chance at collecting compensation for your unjust firing.
Have you been unfairly fired from your job?
You are probably wondering, under California law, have I been wrongfully fired from my job?
If you have been unfairly terminated from your job, under California law you may be eligible for significant money compensation.
In California there are a variety of laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Under California law, workplace harassment is prohibited under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. (FEHA). California Government Code section 12940(j)(1).
Based on what I see, companies routinely violate these workplace discrimination laws.
California ‘wrongful termination” laws provide employees with the right to sue their current and former employers if you are unjustly fired under many circumstances.
In addition, if you are a current employee and are unjustly discriminated against you may have a valid discrimination claim against your employer.
Let's start to unpack this.
Illegal termination / adverse employment action
Do I have a claim for wrongful termination? In California, in order to have a claim for compensation, there needs to be an "adverse employment action."
Here are some of the illegal reasons (read: adverse employment actions) for your employer to terminate you in California:
1. Hostile workplace / constructive termination.
2. Breach of implied contract.
3. Breach of contract.
4. Discrimination based upon age.
5. Discrimination based upon sex.
6. Discrimination based upon pregnancy.
7. Discrimination based upon color.
8. Discrimination based upon religion.
9. Discrimination based upon disability.
10. Discrimination based upon medical condition.
11. Discrimination based upon national origin.
12. Discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
13. Retaliation for making an OSHA complaint.
14. Retaliation for making an unpaid wages claim.
15. Retaliation for making filing a claim about rest breaks or meal breaks.
16. Discrimination based upon political affiliation.
17. Physical disability (FEHA or ADA).
18. Use of Family Medical Leave (FMLA or CFRA).
Under California law, any of these reasons for firing you from your job is an “adverse employment action.”
Most wrongful termination cases are brought under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Don’t get hung up on the “at will” defense (read: excuse)
You can expect that the first thing the employer is going to argue is that your employment was “at will.” Which is a legal way of saying that you don’t have a contract for a certain length of time. Meaning, you can be terminated at the will of the company.
I suggest that you don’t get caught up in this whole “at will” nonsense. Most successful wrongful termination cases are “at will” employment. In other words, so what? Just because you are an “at will” employee doesn’t give the company an excuse to fire you illegally. It is still a wrongful termination even if you are an “at will” employee.
What are you going to do about it?
The fact of the matter is that some of the largest companies in California regularly commit illegal terminations. Meaning, they fire their employees wrongfully. This may have happened to you.
The big question is whether you are going to take the first step to hold them accountable? Are you going to take it and move on? Or are you going to take action for you to recover the damages that you may be entitled to under California law or Federal law?
If you aren’t going to stand up to the company, than who will? If not you, then who?
Substantial motivating reason
Under California employment law, the illegal reason for your being fired must be a “substantial motivating reason” for you being terminated by the company.
Under California law a Substantial motivating reason is defined as:
A “substantial motivating reason” is a reason that actually contributed
to the adverse employment action. It must be more than a
remote or trivial reason. It does not have to be the only reason
motivating the adverse employment action.
CACI No. 2507
What is CACI?
CACI is an acronym for California Civil Jury Instructions. When you have a trial in California, the CACI instruction is what the jury is going to use as the law in order to decide your case. In that respect, nothing else really matters, because the CACI instruction is the law. CACI 2508 is the California jury instruction for "substantial motivating reason."
If you've been reading a few website on California law for wrongful termination or wrongful firing, my impression is that not that many attorneys are telling you about CACI. I think it's because these attorneys want to keep you in the dark as to the law and so you will need to call them or hire them in order for you to have to rely on their "expertise." Not me. I believe in being straight from the start.
When I do research I want as much good information as possible in order for me to make the best informed decision. I figure you to also.
The “Cat’s paw” rule
Under the cat’s paw rule, the person who actually took the adverse employment action against the employee was not acting out of any improper animus (read: strong dislike or hostile attitude). The decision maker, however, acted on information provided by a supervisor who was acting out of discriminatory or retaliatory animus with the objective of causing the adverse employment action. The decision maker is referred to as the “cat’s paw” of the person with the animus
. CACI 2511.
Proving adverse employment actions in California
Under California the plaintiff may raise a presumption of discrimination by presenting a “prima facie case,” the components of which vary depending upon the nature of the claim, but typically require evidence that:
(1) the plaintiff was a member of a protected class,
(2) the plaintiff was qualified for the position he [or she] sought or was performing competently in the position … held,
(3) the plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action, such as termination, demotion, or denial of an available job, and
(4) some other circumstance that suggests discriminatory motive.
Serri v. Santa Clara University (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 830, 860.
California law recognizes, “direct evidence of intentional discrimination is rare, and that such claims must usually be proved circumstantially. Thus, by successive steps of increasingly narrow focus, the test allows discrimination to be inferred from facts that create a reasonable likelihood of bias and are not satisfactorily explained.” McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973) 411 U.S. 792 (McDonnell Douglas); Serri v. Santa Clara University (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 830, 860.
Hostile work environment
A hostile work environment is where the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
What is constructive termination in California?
First, you are going to have to prove that you worked in a hostile work environment and/or had to endure illegal working condition. And:
That this requirement was so intolerable that a reasonable person in your position would have had no reasonable alternative except to resign.
What money damages can I recover?
What can I recover if I have been wrongfully fired from my job in California?
Generally, the money damages due to being wrongfully terminated in California will include one or more of the following:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Compensation for emotional distress and pain and suffering from losing your job and/or from the wrongful discrimination
- Attorney fees and costs
- In some instances, you may be entitled to punitive damages to punish the employer
What are my legal rights to compensation if I have been fired from my job in California? You are going to need to be able to prove that the adverse employment action, caused your lost wages, emotional distress and/or pain and suffering. Once you do this, you are also entitled to attorney fees and costs.
What if I was fired from work in California - what are my other legal options for getting money compensation from my employer?
The last thing you want to do is for you to leave your hard earned money on the table, so to speak, when you’ve been fired from your job in California.
Not all lawyers are alike
Lawyers have far different expertise and experience in handling different legal matters. We are only telling you all of this so you know that Bill Turley has the experience, resources and skill to handle employment law cases.
We are not telling you all this to brag, but to let you know that Bill has the skill and resources needed to prevail in employment law cases.
All lawyers are not alike. Putting aside all of the awards and accolades - Bill is also known for being blunt and honest.
California's Leading Employment Lawyer - Bill Turley
“I give it to you straight. No sugar added.
No lawyer talk, no double talk.
Just old fashioned, unsweetened truth.”
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Bill Turley is regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and California Assembly on employment law
This article is not legal advice. Every case is different. Just because we have gotten great results in so many employment law cases, doesn't guarantee any particular result in your case or any other case. In other words, your mileage may vary.
But what I can say....
But what I can say is that if you don't take some action (like contacting the best, honest employment lawyer that you can find); then you may very well be allowing the company to get away with violating your legal rights. Even if it isn't us - I strongly suggest that you pick up the phone or send a message to a good California employment lawyer. With most lawyers there is no obligation to talk to them initially to see if you may have a valid case and be entitled to money damages. Just do something.