No Recovery, No Fee.
In California, Labor Code 2802 provides that employment is "at-will" unless there is an agreement to the contrary. At-will employment means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not illegal. Similarly, employees can resign from their jobs at any time and for any reason, without legal consequence.
Wrongful Termination Claims Based on Violations of Statute
Although employment is at-will absent an agreement to the contrary, there are legal exceptions and cases where terminations are unlawful and constitute a violation of statute. For example, employers cannot terminate employees based on discriminatory factors such as race, gender, age, religion, or disability. This is a violation of both state and federal law.
Other unlawful reasons for termination include retaliation for whistleblowing, reporting harassment, or exercising legal rights such as taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees who are fired for these reasons may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Wrongful Termination Claims Based on Violations of Contract
In addition to wrongful termination claims based on statute, terminations can also be in violation of contract. This is distinct from a claim for wrongful termination based on statute, but damages are still recoverable in such actions. For example, an employee may have an employment contract that requires the employer to have good cause for termination, or that provides for a specific notice period before termination.
Statistics on Wrongful Terminations in California
Wrongful termination claims are common in California, with thousands of cases filed each year. According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the agency received 23,500 complaints of employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, with wrongful termination being one of the most common complaints.
What Damages are Recoverable in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
The following are the damages that may be recoverable in a wrongful termination lawsuit in California:
Lost Wages and Benefits: An employee may be entitled to recover damages for the wages and benefits they would have received had they not been wrongfully terminated. This includes back pay, front pay, and benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits. These damages may be reduced by any wages the employee earned from a new job during the period of unemployment.
Emotional Distress: An employee may also be entitled to recover damages for the emotional distress they suffered as a result of their wrongful termination. Emotional distress damages are available when the wrongful termination caused the employee severe emotional distress, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are available in cases where the employer's conduct was particularly egregious or intentional. Punitive damages are meant to punish the employer and deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct. The amount of punitive damages varies depending on the circumstances of the case, but they can be substantial.
Attorney's Fees and Costs: An employee who prevails in a wrongful termination lawsuit may be entitled to recover their attorney's fees and costs. This can help offset the costs of pursuing the lawsuit and make it easier for employees to seek justice. The potential to recover attorney fees can also put enormous pressure on the defendant employer to settle the case early on in litigation.
It is important to note that damages recoverable in a wrongful termination lawsuit may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. For example, an employee who was terminated for discriminatory reasons may be entitled to additional damages under federal or state anti-discrimination laws.
Why Hire Phillips & Associates for Your Wrongful Termination Case
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important to consult with an experienced law firm. At Phillips & Associates we have been helping wrongfully terminated employees for more than 30 years. We can valuate your case, help you understand your legal rights and options, and pursue a lawsuit for damages on your behalf. Wrongful termination cases can be complex, and having an experienced law firm on your side is essential to maximize your chances of success.
We handle all of our wrongful termination cases on a pure contingency fee basis so there is no up front fee or cost for our services. Contact us today for a free consultation.