If you’ve found yourself on our website, we can only assume you’re in need of some information regarding wrongful termination and employment law in general. Whether you’ve resigned, been terminated, or just know someone who was, you’re here to get questions answered. You’re in luck! We’ve created this post on frequently asked questions specifically to answer those common issues related to wrongful termination and employment lawsuits.
There’s a lot of information out there on the web, most riddled with complex legal jargon (at-will? punitive damages? constructive discharge? huh?). While detailed, we understand that can be horribly confusing.
Thus, we’re here to make sure you understand some of the most essential questions in employment law, and then some. We don’t believe there is ever a conclusive list of employment law FAQs, so we’re making sure this blog post continues to GROW! We’ll be adding to this post so you have a one-stop-shop to get all the answers you need!
Can’t find the answer you need? LET US KNOW! Either leave a comment down below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll do our best to respond as soon as possible and add your Q&A to our ever-growing list. Even if you might have a follow up question to one of our answers, we at Odell Law are always willing to help!
What Makes A Termination ‘Wrongful’?
A “wrongful termination” occurs when an employee is fired for reasons that violate the law and/or important public policy. Common examples of illegal termination include firing an employee for discriminatory reasons (like age, sex, disability, etc.) or in retaliation for legally-protected activity (like complaining about sexual harassment).
It’s important to remember that, even if a termination is unfair and you believe you did nothing wrong, it’s not necssiarly illegal unless it relates to a law that has been broken (i.e. laws against discrimination, harassment, retaliation, etc.).
“At-Will” Employment: What Does It Mean?
If you are an “at-will” employee, it simply means your employer can fire you at any time for any reason, as long as it’s not an illegal reason. Even if an employer does not establish “just cause” to support an at-will termination, employees are still protected by state and federal laws.
How Soon After I’ve Been Fired Should I Contact An Attorney?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! It is crucial that you speak with an experienced wrongful termination lawyer because there are many variables in each case which require someone knowledgeable in employment law to evaluate.
Importantly, there is a statute of limitations for filing a claim. Waiting too long could prevent you from obtaining the compensation and justice you deserve.
What If I Am Terminated Simply Because My Employer/Supervisor Doesn’t Like Me?
Unfortunately, with California being an “at-will” state, your employer could fire you for any reason, one being because you don’t get along with your supervisor (i.e. personality difference). In order for a termination to be deemed as wrongful, you will need to prove that the termination involved a violation of law (i.e. laws preventing discrimination, harassment and retaliation for protected classes).
What Is Constructive Discharge / Constructive Termination?
If you are forced to quit your job because you were suffering from illegal working conditions (such as sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace) and your employer makes no effort to alleviate the situation for you, you may have a good claim for constructive discharge. Thus, even if you were not terminated, you can still sue for wrongful termination due to the circumstances being so intolerable, that there was no other option but to quit.
Constructive termination cases are, however, more difficult to litigate, as you will have to convince a judge or jury that conditions were so intolerable that “no reasonable person” in your situation could have continued to remain in that workplace. This is easier said than done, as many prospective jurors may disagree on how severe your situation was. Thus, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney before you quit your job.
Does My Employer Have To Give Me A Reason For My Termination?
Usually, no. California is an ‘at-will’ state (see above for that definition), therefore, an employer does not need to give a reason before firing you.
What Kind Of Damages Can I Get For A Wrongful Termination Case?
Usually, you can seek both compensatory damages and punitive damages, which are awarded at trial.
Like the name implies, Compensatory damages are meant to compensate for your lost income, benefits, and any emotional distress you may have suffered and will continue to suffer into the future. As such, a jury will usually award four items as part of compensatory employment damages: (1) Past lost wages and benefits, (2) Future lost wages and benefits, (3) Past emotional distress and (4) Future emotional distress.
Punitive damages, however, are meant to act as punishment to the employer for illegal conduct and can only be awarded if the jury agrees that the employer acted with “malice, oppression or fraud” in wrongfully terminating your employment. For example, if the employer willfully lied and tried to cover up the illegal behavior (like fabricating an alternate reason for your termination) it could be viewed as “fraud” and thus active an award of punitive damages. There is no “one size fits all” approach to punitive damages, as it will depend on the severity of the conduct and the size of the employer – meaning larger companies will require a larger punishment for them to “feel the sting” of punitive damages.
Does My Employer Have To Accommodate My Disability?
Assuming it’s a reasonable accommodation that doesn’t cause an “undue burden,” then yes.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for present and prospective employees with disabilities. As mentioned above, the key word is “reasonable.” As long as the accommodation does not impose undue hardship on the employer (i.e. doesn’t unduly interfere with their ability to operate as a business), they are required to accommodate your disability.
Notably, employers are not required to create a new job or position in order to accommodate a disability, nor are they required to grant open-ended “indefinite” medical leave. This is why most all medical professionals will place employees on leave or a finite amount of time, usually 2-6 week increments, at which point they will be reevaluated.