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Walnut Creek Wrongful Termination Attorneys
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California is an “at-will” state, meaning that an employer can in theory choose to fire an employee at any time, for practically any reason. The legal reality is that an employer cannot fire an employee for illegal reasons, and you have rights if you are wrongfully terminated.
If you believe you were fired on unlawful grounds, our Walnut Creek wrongful termination lawyers are ready to help you explore your legal options. Our team at Ratner Molineaux regularly handles wrongful termination cases resulting from employment discrimination and retaliation and can provide the tenacious representation you need to hold your employer accountable. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to recover compensation for lost wages, emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages. We have a strong track record of successfully advocating for our clients in wrongful termination scenarios and will fight to secure the maximum level of compensation available to you.
Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Claim in California
California employees are protected from being fired on certain protected grounds under state and federal laws. A vast majority of wrongful termination cases occur as a direct result of discrimination or retaliation.
In California, your employer cannot fire you as a result of your:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Political Beliefs
- Pregnancy or Marital Status
- Physical or Mental Disability
- Age (if over 40)
- Medical Conditions
- Military or Veteran Status
- Genetic Information
Employers also cannot retaliate against you for exercising your legal rights, such as:
- Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim
- Reporting a Workplace Sexual Assault
- Reporting Workplace Discrimination
- Complaining about Unfair Pay or Unsafe Workplace Conditions
- Blowing the Whistle on Unlawful Behavior
- Requesting and Taking Protected Family or Medical Leave
In most wrongful termination situations, employers will not be direct about why they are firing someone. They will often use vague terms like “not a good fit” or “not working out” when justifying a dismissal that is actually the result of a protected characteristic or retaliatory act. Some employers will also exploit broader layoffs to conceal wrongful terminations.
Most wrongful terminations will be suspiciously timed. Consider an example scenario where your pregnancy – which you previously did not disclose – is now unavoidably apparent to colleagues in your workplace. Despite a strong performance record, you are surprised to learn you are being dismissed for ambiguous, unclear reasons. In this case, there is a good chance your employer discovered the pregnancy and chose to wrongfully terminate you to avoid having to provide you with pregnancy disability leave and other accommodations.
In an example involving retaliation, you might be experiencing sexual harassment at work and decide to report the issue to your company’s HR department. While the HR representative might appear to be empathetic to your concerns, you are unsatisfied with the results of the internal investigation and elect to file a claim with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission you are soon summoned to your boss’s office and told you are being let go for “not being a team player.” Your employer likely retaliated against your decision to file a claim, and you thus likely have a wrongful termination case.
California employees are considered “at-will” by default unless their employment agreement specifically states otherwise. Though most California workers are hired “at-will,” some employees – particularly executives – may sign contracts, including union contracts, that guarantee they can only be fired under specific, outlined circumstances. In these instances, you may have a wrongful termination case if your employer violates your employment agreement.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether you have been wrongfully terminated and whether there is sufficient evidence to file a lawsuit. Our Walnut Creek wrongful termination attorneys can carefully evaluate the available evidence and advise whether you have a strong case.
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In California, you must file a wrongful termination lawsuit within two years of the date you were fired. Any legal action pursued after this deadline will almost certainly be dismissed, so it is important to act quickly when you believe you may have been fired illegally.
If you win a wrongful termination lawsuit in California, you may be able to recover several types of damages. We can help you understand what types of compensation you can expect in your case.
You will in most situations be able to obtain compensation for lost wages. This includes any salaries or wages you would have otherwise received had you not been wrongfully terminated. You may also be able to secure monetary damages for lost benefits (such as accrued vacation time, scheduled bonuses, and retirement plan contributions) and future economic losses resulting from the unlawful firing.
Emotional pain and suffering damages are designed to compensate you for any anxiety, depression, or emotional distress you incurred as a result of your wrongful termination. Punitive damages will in rare cases be awarded if an employer’s conduct is especially egregious, fraudulent, and/or malicious.
Our Walnut Creek wrongful termination lawyers understand how these cases are adjudicated in California courts. Our team at Ratner Molineaux is proud to provide comprehensive legal counsel and representation to employees that have been adversely impacted by wrongful termination, and we will fight to do everything possible to secure a favorable outcome in your case.