Orange County Wrongful Termination Lawyers
Wrongful Termination—formally known as Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy—is a term regularly used by employees to describe situations and circumstances where they have been either fired, laid off, or terminated from their job for reasons that seem improper or even altogether incorrect. Plainly, with a few exceptions, almost every termination can be viewed as wrongful. No one expects to be fired or laid off and, when that suddenly and shockingly happens, the reasoning behind those decisions can seem surprising, questionable, or not even be explained at all. What an Orange County employment lawyer must evaluate and determine, however, is not just that the termination was merely wrongful, but also whether it violated California law.
Wrongful Termination Laws
Wrongful Termination is a serious issue that can affect Orange County employees as well as employees throughout the State of California. Unlike other states, in terms of employee rights and the laws enacted to protect them, California has long been at the forefront and that continues today. From a legal perspective, a wrongful termination attorney must be a legal claim on the principle that an employer’s actions in firing or laying off the employee violated an established public policy of the State of California. The public policies of the State of California are usually found in the California Constitution, State statutes and regulations, or otherwise established principles of law. In some instances, case law can sometimes also serve as the basis to formalize a public policy which can serve as a basis for a legal claim.
Examples of established public policies that wrongful termination attorney encounter are a prohibition against terminating an employee for discriminatory reasons (i.e., discriminating against an employee as a result of their age, race, gender, religion, pregnancy, disability, sexual preference or orientation, etc.) which violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) or retaliation under either the FEHA or the California Labor Code (firing an employee for unpaid wages). When a case sets forth a claim for wrongful termination, a wrongful termination attorney will usually include those predicate causes of action as well but, since wrongful termination claims can have longer statutes of limitation under certain circumstances, the claim can be raised by itself too. California Courts have consistently interpreted principles of public policy broadly. In addition to the examples above, employees who engage in whistleblowing against their employer, employees who refuse to engage in illegal activities, employees who exercise their individual legal rights, and employees who report safety or legal violations are also deemed to have exercised public policy rights. Although some Federal Laws, such as Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) may be more well known, it is always important to consult an Orange County employment attorney because California laws usually provide greater, if not significantly greater, protections for employees. That is somewhat different when it comes to public employees (i.e., those who work for the State or public agencies). A claim for wrongful termination usually cannot be made against a public entity, although the predicate claims may still stand.
Orange County Wrongful Termination Lawyers
Remedies in Wrongful Termination Cases
If an employee brings a Complaint for Wrongful Termination in Court or arbitration and is successful, damages can be significant. First, an employee can be entitled to pay back (sometimes referred to as lost wages), which is the wages that the employee would have made between the time when an employee suffers the wrongful termination and the date of trial. If an employee still has not found a replacement job, the employee may also be able to recover what is known as front pay. This damage is the wages for a reasonable amount of time in which it is expected that it will take for the employee to find another job. It is important to note, however, employee must actively be trying to find another job and mitigate their damages, even if they are on unemployment. If they do not, their damages can be limited with respect to both back pay and front pay.
Damages are not simply limited to wages. An employee who successfully pursues a wrongful termination case may also recover for emotional distress. Emotional distress damages represent the emotional harm an employee suffers as a direct result of the wrongful termination. This can be very wide ranging from sadness to difficultly sleeping to loss of appetite all the way to serious depression.
Punitive damages can also be available under specific circumstances. Punitive damages are intended to punish an employer for particularly egregious conduct. In California, punitive damages for wrongful termination cases are usually a one to three multiplier of actual damages. Other damages may also be available depending on the underlying statute or public policy upon which the case is based. Thus, damages in wrongful termination cases can be substantial and considerable when an employee wins their case.
Wrongful Termination Lawyers in Orange County
It can sometimes be difficult for an employee to know whether they have a case for wrongful termination. In criminal termination cases, employers will rarely provide the employee with the specific or even real reason for which they are being let go. It is often disguised as poor performance or the elimination of a position. It could also be a simply made-up reason. Therefore, when an employee is terminated, fired, or laid off, it is critical to speak to an Orange County employment attorney with specific expertise in California employment law. Employees can sometimes be nervous or otherwise reluctant to reach out to an employment attorney to discuss their case. That should not be the case. The employer almost certainly consulted an attorney before making the decision to terminate the employee. Orange County wrongful termination attorneys like the attorneys at Ares Law Group regularly do consultations to explain your legal rights and evaluate your case. At Ares Law Group, consultations are always free.