Although California is an “at-will” employment state—meaning that an employer can terminate an employee for any non-discriminatory reason—if you have lost your job, you still might be entitled to compensation and even reinstatement. To fully protect yourself, and your family, you should consider consulting with our wrongful termination lawyers to review the circumstances of your dismissal.
At the Law Office of Scott R. Herndon, we take pride in representing workers of all stripes, from C Suite executives to data scientists, and project managers to brick-and-mortar employees. Scott’s former university students have founded, and worked, at some of the most successful companies in the world. This gives our law firm unparalleled access to the cultures of technology companies in California, and a strategic advantage in understanding how to penetrate the veils of their decision-making in relation to their employees.
We ask you to review these possible exceptions to California at-will employment. If any of them fit, give us a call to arrange for a free consultation.
Were You a Victim of a Wrongful Termination?
Whether you work in social media or for a brick and mortar construction company, wrongful termination means that you were dismissed in violation of an employment or union contract or for a prohibited statutory or common law reason.
- Breach of employment contract: Some employees, especially executives, have either an oral or written contract of employment that includes the circumstances under which employees can be lawfully terminated. Of course, a written contract is easier to enforce than an oral one. However, the contract terms should constrain employee termination to “for cause,” meaning that the employee did something wrong in violation of the law, company policy, or the terms of the employment contract. An existing union contract might also govern the circumstances and procedures for termination, which must be followed.
- Breach of the implied covenant of good faith: Employers cannot terminate employees merely to avoid payment of a commission or other earned benefit. This is called a breach of the implied covenant of good faith.
- Discrimination: A series of California and federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, disability, marital status, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
- Refusal to engage in illegal activity: An employee cannot be compelled to take actions that violate the law. Termination based on a refusal to engage in illegal activity is prohibited.
- Retaliation: An employer cannot terminate an employee for exercising your statutory rights to file an employment claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a wage claim with the California Labor Commission, or a request for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 (NDAA). You cannot be terminated for filing a sexual harassment claim or another complaint through the procedures set out in the company handbook, or for supporting another employee’s claim. In addition, you cannot be terminated for engaging in protected union organizing activities.
- Violation of state or federal employment law procedures: You must be terminated in a manner consistent with existing state and federal labor laws.
- Whistleblowing: It is unlawful under California and federal law for an employer to terminate an employee for exercising rights to inform the government about illegal activities conducted by a corporation or employer to the detriment of public health and safety.
It is important to understand that it is not always impermissible for a business to terminate an employee. Valid reasons for termination can include poor performance, inadequate quality of work, or inability to fulfill time requirements; insubordination or breaking company policy; unsubstantiated absences; criminal activity; harassment or threats of violence at the workplace; or general layoffs. However, some businesses have become exceptionally sophisticated in using these reasons as pretexts for other, impermissible factors that actually drove them to terminate their employees. A skilled lawyer is an essential resource for analyzing whether this important line has been crossed.
If you believe that you have been a victim of wrongful termination from employment in California, call today to arrange for a free consultation with the Law Office of Scott R. Herndon. We will evaluate your claim and advise you as to your options in a compassionate, courteous, and timely manner.
What is Constructive Discharge?
In a constructive dismissal, an employee who is protected by a protected class is unable to continue working because an employer or supervisor has created circumstances that inhibit their ability to continue working. As a result, the employee quits. Ordinarily, voluntary resignation is not actionable as a legal claim. However, if the circumstances show that the employer made your job so intolerable that continued employment was an impermissible burden, you might have a claim for wrongful termination.
What Should I Do to Protect My Rights?
First and foremost—contact a skilled attorney before signing any documents. Your employer cannot force you to sign any separation documents without the opportunity to consult with an attorney first. Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time to fully understand the terms of any severance, and that includes finding counsel you trust to confer with you.
Be sure to collect all pertinent materials, including texts, emails, and any paperwork, that you believe support a claim of wrongful termination, including all work evaluations. Create a contact list of co-workers and supervisors who have first-hand knowledge of your work performance as well as any customers, clients, or vendors.
Being proactive in this regard can help you find empowerment and strength in the face of an incredibly vulnerable experience. It also should include consulting with a skilled and experienced Bay Area wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you are preserving your options by acting timely.
When Wrongful Termination Claims are Successful
Wrongful termination claims are difficult to prove because employers understand how to create a pretextual record to frame a wrongful termination in a way that appears permissible. However, if successful, you will be entitled to a range of remedies, including:
- Lost wages, both past and future earnings
- Any lost benefits, such as contributions to retirement funds or accrued vacation time
- Anxiety, emotional distress, and depression resulting from the wrongful termination
- Punitive damages, but only if the employer is found guilty of fraud or malice
- Attorney’s fees and costs
Contact the Law Office of Scott R. Herndon
It’s important not to feel rushed into signing severance documents. Take the time to fully protect your rights by consulting with a knowledgeable and skilled wrongful termination attorney. Scott R. Herndon is a plaintiff’s lawyer. He has years of experience as a practicing attorney and law professor with expertise in negotiations with some of the most sophisticated companies in the world, from technology companies to Fortune 100 corporations.
Having taught at some of the most acclaimed universities in the world, the Law Office of Scott Herndon provides intensely analytic, compassionate advocates who understand how it feels to be wronged. We will review your circumstances in a free consultation and evaluate your claim. Whether we help negotiate better terms for separation, file a claim with the EEOC or California agencies, or bring a suit for damages, you will be fully apprised of all your options. Contact us today.