Articles Posted in wrongful termination

Wrongful termination in California is a situation wherein a worker is laid off or fired for a reason that violates state or federal law or public policy. California wrongful termination lawyer

As our Orange County employment attorneys can explain, most wrongful terminations stem from firing that resulted from:

  • Violation of an implied contract.
  • Whistleblower activities.
  • Violations of public policy.
  • Exercising rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim or reporting a work injury.
  • WARN Act violations (involving mass layoffs).
  • Retaliation for workers exercising rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or state employee leave laws.

Workers who successfully bring a wrongful termination lawsuit may be entitled to collect lost wages and benefits, back pay, compensation for emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages (the last specifically awarded for gross misconduct by an employer).

How Do I Know if My Firing Was an Exception to California’s At-Will Employment Law?

When we say that wrongful termination lawsuits stem from illegitimate reasons, we’re specifically referring to unlawful reasons. The reality is that as an at-will employment state, an employer can legally fire you for no reason at all. Just the same way an employee can quit for any reason at all.

However, if you get fired for reasons that have something to do with your race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, age (if over 40), disability, marital status, pregnancy (or related condition), medical condition, being a member of the military or a victim of domestic violence/stalking, etc. – that is what amounts to a wrongful termination under federal and/or state laws. (Cities may have their own additional categories that are protected under law.)

Similarly, one can sue for wrongful termination if the termination occurred in violation of an implied contract. Employers create implied contracts by doing things like issuing employee handbooks that list specific causes for termination or telling an employee they won’t be fired unless they engage in certain behavior.

Another exception to at-will employment is when termination is in violation of public policy. The best example of this would be an employee who refuses to follow an employer’s order to break the law and is fired for it. That individual would have a case for public policy wrongful termination. Similarly, companies can’t fire workers for telling police the employer broke the law or for reporting unsafe working conditions to an agency like OSHA.

Workers can’t be fired in retaliation for reporting or cooperating with a case involving harassment, discrimination, criminal wrongdoing, wage and hour violations, or safety violations. Continue Reading ›

Claims of whistleblower retaliation filed under labor laws in California are going to be weighed by the standard set forth in that law, rather than the more stringent burden-shifting test that was laid out in the 1973 case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. This was the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court in the case of Lawson v. PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc.California whistleblower retaliation lawyer

As our Riverside worker retaliation lawyers can explain, Labor Code section 1102.5 stipulates that employers can’t make or enforce any rule that prevents an employee from whistleblowing. Employers also cannot retaliate against a worker for whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is defined as the disclosure of information to a government or law enforcement agency when the employee has reason to believe the disclosure reveals a violation of state or federal law by the company.

In the following provision of the law, Labor Code section 1102.6, which went into effect in 2004, lawmakers stipulated that once the worker establishes a prima facie case that retaliation for whistleblowing was at least one contributing factor of the negative employment action, the proof burden is then on the employer, who must prove by clear and convincing evidence it would have happened for legitimate, independent reasons, regardless of the employee’s whistleblowing.

But despite this seemingly straightforward law, some California courts weighing whistleblower retaliation cases have been instead applying the proof burden set in the McDonnell Douglas ruling. This standard was established in the context of handling Title VII discrimination claims. The latter test – widely acknowledged to be much more employer-friendly than the standard set forth in California Labor Code – requires that once the employee proves unlawful retaliation, the employer can evade liability by simply showing the adverse action was taken for reasons that were non-retaliatory and legitimate. The employee still bears the burden of proving the reason the employer gave was merely a pretext for illegal retaliation.

The Lawson ruling is considered a victory for future plaintiff/employees. Continue Reading ›

Nondisclosure agreements, sometimes also referred to as confidentiality clauses, are written legal contracts between employers and employees, drafted with the purpose of laying out binding terms and conditions. These can include provisions like prohibitions on disclosing confidential and proprietary information. However, as our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, they are too often used in ways that many believe exploit the power imbalance between workers and employers. In some cases, employees have been compelled to sign away their right to pursue claims for wrongdoings like sexual harassment in the workplace. They may also include non-disparagement clauses that prohibit workers from speaking negatively about the company. Where NDAs are found to be overly-broad in scope, they may be deemed unenforceable. employee nondisclosure agreements California

Recently, a California judge ruled that the confidentiality agreements required of Google’s employees were too broad – in violation of the state’s labor laws. The ultimate impact of that decision is more workers and ex-workers may find it easier to speak openly about these firms.

The Washington Post reports the case in question involved a Google employee who took the company to court, arguing the nondisclosure agreement the company asked him to sign blocked him from talking about his job to other potential employers. Effectively, he argued, this amounted to a non-compete clause. Such provisions are unlawful in California. A Superior Court judge sided with the employee on this point, though declined to make a decision on allegations these NDAs also prohibited whistleblowing and worker exchange of wage information – also illegal in California. Continue Reading ›

Fairness and equality are cornerstone ideals in America, but not every employer embodies or enforces them. However, does unfair treatment alone mean you can take legal action against your employer? Los Angeles employment lawyer

As our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain, the viability of a California employment lawsuit depends on a myriad of factors, including:

  • The exact nature of the adverse action and how substantially you were impacted.
  • Whether the motivation for the adverse action was – in whole or in part – a protected characteristic or activity.
  • The strength of the evidence you have of the employer’s unlawful motivation for the adverse action. (This includes whether others similarly situated were treated the same way or differently.)
  • When these adverse actions were taken.

This is not to say you need to have every single detail in order for your initial consultation with an employment attorney, but it’s a good idea to have basic answers so that your attorney knows where to start.

What Are Protected Characteristics and Actions? 

The simple fact of being slighted at work isn’t necessarily cause for litigation. In general, it must involve certain characteristics or actions that are protected by law.

  • Examples of protected statuses include: Religion, Race, Age (over 40), Disability, Sex, Gender/Gender Identity, Marital Status, Ancestry, Veteran Status, Military Status, Medical Condition, Genetic Information, Color, or Pregnancy/Any Related Condition.
  • Examples of protected activities include: Serving on a jury, Taking necessary family leave, Attending court and/or seeking care as a victim of a crime, Sharing your salary/wage information with others, Participating in a workplace complaint, Taking time off to fulfill first responder duties, Exercising lactation rights, and Whistleblowing.

These aren’t necessarily exhaustive lists; it’s best to consult with an attorney if you aren’t sure whether your unfair treatment was unlawful.

Is All Unfair Workplace Treatment Unlawful?

No, not all unfair workplace treatment in California is against the law. California is an at-will state when it comes to employment law. That means your employer can fire you for almost any reason without consequences. However, the exceptions arise when those adverse actions are taken as a result of some protected status or action.

So for example, if you are fired because of your age, but you are under the age of 40, your age is not a protected characteristic under the law. It’s not fair, but it’s not illegal. Continue Reading ›

Are COVID-19 vaccine mandates legal in California? It’s a query increasingly being asked of our Los Angeles employment attorneys. California employer vaccine mandates

Employer vaccine mandates may soon become the norm, at least in California, if not beyond. Large employers – particularly those in California and New York – are moving to have their employees get vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID-19. Recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mandated vaccines for its health care workers and President Joe Biden is expected to announce that all federal employees will be required to either be vaccinated or regularly tested. Masking mandates are also coming back into effect. As of right now, many private sector employers have stopped short of requiring vaccines as a condition of employment, but the growing thread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus may compel them to shift course. A growing number of L.A. bars and restaurants are going so far as to require patrons – let alone employees – to prove they are vaccinated.

Generally, employers can mandate vaccines, but it depends on where you live. Further, as a Los Angeles employment lawyer can explain, accommodations must be made for those with religious exemptions and disabilities, as well as those in unions.

The thinking behind these initiatives is that unless and until more people are vaccinated, infections, hospitalizations and deaths are likely to increase drastically across the country. With this, many major companies such as Lyft, Google and Facebook are requiring worker vaccines, as are universities. The only exceptions are those with medical or religious exemptions.

In response, we’re starting to see some employment lawsuits (wrongful termination) crop up. In Texas, for example, a hospital faced a lawsuit from more than 100 employees who were vaccine averse. There are also university students in Indiana who allege the school’s vaccine mandate is unconstitutional.

However, the history of vaccine mandates in the U.S. is actually a long one. Continue Reading ›

Getting fired is never fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. As our L.A. employment attorneys can explain, certain elements need to exist in order to prove your termination was illegal, as opposed to just unpleasant. Los Angeles wrongful discrimination lawyer

Let’s start by explaining just broadly that a mix of federal and California laws prohibit employers from firing workers for a number of specific reasons, including disability, age (if over 40), use of family or medical leave, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, race or religion. Laws like the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA), the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII and others are designed to protect workers from being fired on the basis of things that are mostly beyond their control. Other provisions of law are designed to protect workers who are whistleblowers or who file complaints for things like sexual harassment, discrimination or other wrongdoing.

What can complicate some would-be wrongful termination claims is the fact that California (like most other states) practices something called at-will employment. This means that employers are allowed to take adverse employment action (cut pay, reduce paid time off, end benefits or even fire workers) at any time and for any reason – except one that is illegal. At the same time, employees are generally free to quit anytime they want without incurring any legal liability.

If you aren’t sure whether your firing was lawful, it’s best to share your concerns in confidence with an experienced wrongful termination lawyer who can explain how the law may be applicable in your case. That said, here are some examples of when your firing may be unlawful. Continue Reading ›

A bill aimed at empowering workers to come forward about employment discrimination and harassment was introduced in the California state senate recently. Specifically at issue are provisions of non-disclosure agreements many workers are compelled to sign when settling employment lawsuits or simply as a condition of employment. The Silenced No More Act would statutorily ban such provisions in settlements that involve cases of discrimination or abuse. Los Angeles employment attorney

Sponsor of the bill Sen. Connie Levya told CNN that it is unacceptable for companies to effectively place a gag order on workers who have been victims of discrimination, harassment or assault. The idea is not just to give these workers back their voices, but also to serve as a means of accountability against perpetrators and corporations that cover for them.

The measure builds on an earlier #MeToo era law called the STAND Act, which was passed three years ago. That law prohibits settlement agreements that bar workers from speaking up about employment sexual harassment and abuse. The SNMA would extend those prohibition to other forms of workplace discrimination and harassment, including those based on race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Employment Lawsuits Often Deal With Intersectional Problems

Continue Reading ›

Wrongful termination in California goes beyond a firing that some think was unjustified. As our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys can explain, it refers to an employment agreement that’s ended by the employer in violation of the worker’s legal rights. It means that the reason for one’s firing was because of discriminatory reasons, in violation of the employment contract or in retaliation for the employee exercising his or her legal rights.

It’s important to point out that California is an at-will state, so companies can fire employees for any time without cause, reason or advance notice. In order for one’s firing to be considered wrongful termination, former employees need to show it was due to reasons expressly prohibited by state or federal law. Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney

The laws most commonly cited in wrongful termination cases include:

Continue Reading ›

The coronavirus pandemic forced schools and businesses across the country to close, though education and work continued remotely where possible. That left a significant number of parents juggling the responsibilities of being an employee, as well as their child’s caretaker/teacher. Most companies recognized that with schools and day cares closed, they’d have to be flexible in understanding that employees may not be able to devote 100 percent of their attention to work during work hours. However, some of that understanding is waning. For example, Florida State University released communication indicating that beginning next month, the university will no longer allow workers to care for their children while they’re working remotely – an announcement made while COVID-19 cases in that state spiked five-fold. wrongful termination lawyer

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, a single mom with an 11-year-old son has filed an employment lawsuit after she was reportedly fired after being denied a request to flex two hours daily so she could focus on her son during the work day. The Washington Post reports the airline revenue management director was given the option of either taking leave or resigning. When she asked about the workplace protections available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, her supervisor reportedly told her he was “well aware of the various new laws that you’ve had time to look up while at home.” Days later, she was fired, allegedly under the pretext of having a conflict with other workers, something she denies.

As our Orange County wrongful termination attorneys understand it, that is believed to be one of the first employment lawsuits filed under the FFCRA, the goal of which was to expand paid sick leave and family medical leave. Yet it’s probably a sign of things to come as working parents (mothers especially) try juggle employment responsibilities and family obligations. Some employment law attorneys anticipate an uptick in coronavirus-related litigation, once the courts are back in full swing, particularly among workers who have reportedly been denied leave or paid time off to manage child care. Continue Reading ›

California has always had one of the most robust system of protections for employee rights in the country. However, two recent state appellate court rulings may not bode well for punitive damages in future cases. Los Angeles employment lawyers

As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, there are two types of damages in civil cases like these: Compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages are those that compensate a plaintiff for losses. They fall into two basic categories: Economic (medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning potential, loss of benefits, retirement, etc.) and non-economic (pain and suffering, etc.). Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish the defendant for wrongful conduct and hopefully discourage others from engaging in the same kind of behavior in the future. Continue Reading ›

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