When to Accept a Wrongful Termination Settlement

Losing your job is a traumatic experience, which brings with it financial and emotional uncertainty. You may feel angry, embarrassed and shocked that you have been fired, especially if you believe you were fired unfairly. Being terminated from your position is painful enough, but if you feel that you were fired for an illegal reason, you may be wondering if you have a case for wrongful termination.

What is Wrongful Termination

“Wrongful termination” is clearly defined by the law and certain conditions must be met in order to bring a claim in court.  It is important to note that being fired unfairly does not necessarily constitute a legitimate legal claim for wrongful termination. In order to bring a claim against your former employer for wrongful termination, you must have been fired for an illegal reason such as the following:

Termination due to discrimination or harassment based on a protected characteristic

These characteristics include ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, genetic information, etc.

Violation of Public Policy

Many states allow wrongful termination claims when an employee has been fired for voting, participating in jury duty, filing a worker’s compensation claim, or requiring an employee to lie under oath or break the law.

Written Employment Contracts

These legally binding contracts are the basis for a wrongful termination suit if they have been violated by the employer.

Covenant of Good Faith

If an employer terminates an employee seemingly to avoid paying out a pension, that may be a basis for a wrongful termination claim. For example, if an employee has worked at the same company for 30 years and is terminated a few days before their retirement, this termination may be a violation of the good faith of the relationship between the employee and the employer.

Implied Contract of Employment

If an employer has policies in place that would reasonably lead an employee to believe that their employer would not fire them “at-will” but rather would only fire them for cause, this may constitute an implied contract of employment. A typical example of an implied contract wrongful termination claim is a termination that directly violates something from an employee handbook, which articulates an employee’s rights and duties. If an employee is fulfilling their duties and is fired without cause, they may potentially have a claim for wrongful termination.

Valuing a Wrongful Termination Settlement

Many factors are involved in valuation of a wrongful termination claim. The total value of damages may include lost wages, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages, attorney and court fees, front pay (the amount of money you would have made until finding a new job), and compensatory damages.

Additionally, it is important to note that there is a clear connection between damages and compensation. If you are able to quickly find a new job for a greater salary, you may have a difficult time obtaining compensation for your claim from a court of law.

When Should I Accept a Wrongful Termination Settlement in California?

You should only accept a settlement from your employer of your wrongful termination claim if the offer is a fair reflection of the damages you suffered as a result of their actions.

Individuals who are represented by an attorney enter into settlements that are 150 percent higher on average than those who pursue wrongful termination claims on their own. You should not agree to a settlement with your employer until you consult with an experienced employment attorney to review their offer.

Have an Experienced Advocate on Your Side

Unfortunately, wrongful terminations occur quite commonly. You typically only have 180 days to act after you have been wrongfully terminated, so you should consult an attorney right away.

Wrongful termination cases can be challenging and difficult to prove. The team at Perkins Asbill can step in quickly to protect your rights against wrongful termination and help you to negotiate a fair settlement agreement. Contact our office in Sacramento at (916) 520-1417 today to schedule a consultation.

WRONGFUL TERMINATION COMES AFTER PARTICIPATION IN A PROTECTED ACT

You probably never go into a shift at work thinking that it is going to be your last unless you’ve turned in your notice that you’re leaving the job. For some people, the unexpected loss of a job happens while they are just trying to get their work done. There are protections for workers who are wrongfully terminated, but this doesn’t apply to all cases.

California is an at-will employment state so employers technically don’t need a reason to fire you. There are some specific situations in which they can’t fire you. If you have participated in a protected activity, the employer can’t use termination as a retaliatory measure. Here are some of these activities:

  • Working with investigators: You can’t be terminated for cooperating with an investigation into potentially illegal activities at the workplace.
  • Filing a complaint: Your employer can’t fire you because you file a complaint with the authorities for unlawful activities at the company, including those related to sexual harassment or safety violations.
  • Making a complaint: You can’t be let go because you make a complaint to human resources about harassment or discrimination on the job.

If you need to make a claim for wrongful termination based on a protected activity, you might find that proving your case is challenging. You must show that you were a participant in something that is protected. You need to show that your employer is retaliating against you for those actions.

It is important that you continue to do your job duties to the best of your abilities while you are engaged in these activities. Your employment record might come into the picture if you need to take legal action. You don’t need negative marks in it since this might give the employer a lawful basis for the termination.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS CAN’T LED TO TERMINATION

California is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can pretty much fire you for any reason or no reason at all. There are some exceptions to this, as employers can’t terminate you for a protected reason, even in an at-will state.

One factor that can’t lead to termination is your filing a valid workers’ compensation claim. In these cases, you can’t be fired because of the impacts of the injury or because you filed a report outlining some safety defect within the company.

It can be difficult to tie the firing to the fact that you filed a workers’ compensation claim. One possible way to approach this is to show that you were doing your job satisfactorily by citing favorable employee evaluations.

There are some reasons for termination after you file your claim that don’t have anything to do with the injury. The company closing or downsizing its employees might mean that your position is no longer necessary. In these cases, the employer could let you go even if you do have a valid workers’ compensation claim in the works.

Ultimately, you need to follow your medical care plan. Try to return to work when it is safe for you to do so. This decision has to be between you and your doctor. Staying off work too long when it isn’t necessary and coming back sooner than you should can cause issues with your job. If you are returning to work with limitations, make sure those are clearly conveyed to your boss so that he or she knows what to expect.

RETALIATORY TERMINATION IS NEVER AN ACCEPTABLE ACTION AT WORK

While California is an at will employment state, there are specific limitations in place for what employers are allowed to do when it comes to terminating an employee. For example, they aren’t allowed to fire an employee as a retaliatory measure. There are some specific points that employees should remember about retaliatory dismissal.

First, the dismissal can’t be because of lax performance at work. You have to keep up the same work ethic and meet the same standards after you file complaints about sexual harassment or any other unethical behavior. There aren’t any protections from termination based on substandard work, even if the termination comes after you file a complaint about something.

Second, you need to make sure that you react appropriately. If you are terminated, you should remain respectful and calm. This might prove to be difficult, but it might help your case out if you opt to take legal action about the matter.

Third, you need to keep clear documentation of what happened. Write out what happened as soon as possible so that you can refer back to that note if you need to. Be sure to include the information about who terminated you and what reason they give you. This might prove to be important later.

It can be difficult to think about going up against your former employer in court, but this one thing that could help you get compensation for the unethical and illegal termination that you had to deal with. It might not get you an influx of money right away, but it might prove useful in the future if your case is successful in court.

SOME TERMINATION REASONS MIGHT BE AGAINST THE LAW

While employers have a right to end your employment without having to give you a reason, there are some reasons why they can’t let you go. These are reasons that are forbidden by law. You can choose to take legal action if you are terminated for one of these reasons.

You can’t be fired for any form of discrimination. This means due to your gender, sexual preference, age, disability status, marital status, race or religion. All of these are protected statuses, which means that employers can’t consider these for any type of job-related actions, including promotions and demotions.

Another reason why you can’t be terminated is because you refuse to take a lie detector test. This is a federal protection that is covered under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, so don’t think that you have to take the test if you don’t want to.

Employers can’t fire you because you filed valid complaints about the company or a company representative. The key here is that the complaints have to be valid and true. This includes ones made based on employment law, discrimination, or harassment. It doesn’t matter if you reported sexual harassment by a supervisor or an incident of compromised safety standard that regulatory agencies should have known about.

When it comes to retaliatory terminations, you might need to go back a ways in your employment record to find out if the termination was warranted. One thing to look for is the history of your evaluations. If these are favorable and the termination occurred after you filed a complaint, it might be retaliation.

Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful Termination Laws: Illegal Reasons,” accessed May 11, 2018

KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU ARE FIRED

Being fired from work, especially if it is unexpected, can be a shock. You might be tempted to fly off the handle and act out in a negative manner. This isn’t usually a good idea, so you have to make sure that you are keeping your wits about you if you are let go.

One of the first things to do if you are fired is to find out why. Make sure that you listen carefully to the reasoning. If you think there is something amiss and you were fired for an illegal reason, such as for reporting discriminatory behavior, you might be able to take legal action.

Another thing to find out is what type of severance, if any, you are entitled to. Oftentimes, employees who have a contract will have a clause for severance pay. Knowing what you are entitled to and what you are going to do to assert your rights is imperative.

Try not to be negative when you are let go. Even if you are the victim of wrongful termination, badmouthing your former employer isn’t going to be helpful at all. Instead, take a look at what positive skills you learned on the job and use that to your advantage when you are looking for a new job. You can always explore your options for fighting wrongful termination but speaking negatively of the former employer might hinder your chances at finding another job.

You should make sure that you don’t let the employer get away with wrongful termination in any form. While California is an at-will employment state, employers can’t use termination in a discriminatory or retaliatory manner.

Source: The Balance, “You’re Fired! How to Handle Getting Fired,” Alison Doyle, accessed Feb. 16, 2018

EVALUATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING YOUR TERMINATION

There really isn’t ever a good time to be let go from a job, but when you think the termination is due to illegal grounds, you might need to take a long look at what is truly going on. California is an at-will employment state. While this means that employers can let you go at any time, there are some limitations for the reasons they can terminate you.

Employers can’t fire you because of any protected status. These include your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and similar factors. They can’t let you go because you file a complaint about harassment, a hostile work environment, or discrimination. They can’t terminate your employment because you filed a report about illegal activities in the workplace.

When you are considering the reason for the termination, you might have to go back and look at performance evaluations to see if there was any mention of possible issues in those. If your evaluations were pristine prior to the termination, you might be able to prove your case a little easier.

We understand that emotions usually run high under these circumstance of employment separation. While you are going through this situation, remember that you don’t want to do anything that might look bad on you later. It can be hard to keep yourself in check when you are staring the lack of income in the face, but try to breathe deeply and focus on what you need to do.

If you do think that you were wrongfully terminated, you might be able to take legal action regarding the termination. We can take a look at your case and help you to determine what options you have.

ADDRESS RETALIATION CONCERNS RIGHT AWAY

Most people who work don’t head in everyday just because they enjoy the work. Almost everyone works because they need to earn a paycheck to support themselves. This is one thing that some employers count on. They think that the need for a job will keep workers hushed about the things that go on at a company.

We know that some employees are forced to decide between speaking up about illegal activities and keeping their paycheck. This isn’t a position that any workers should be in. When this does happen and you make the decision to speak up, you might notice that the dynamics at the workplace change.

Some employers or their agents decide to punish you for speaking up. This is known as retaliation. Employers can’t legally take retaliatory actions against employees who made a factual complaint about things within the company. If you think that your employer is retaliating against you, we can help you to address the issue.

In some cases, an employer might just terminate your employment because you made the complaint. Doing this is illegal, so many employers will try to cite other reasons for the termination. We can help you to sort through the situation and unearth the real reason for the termination.

Wrongful termination is something that shouldn’t be tolerated. Instead, you should take swift action to let the employer know that you aren’t going to stand for any type of illegal action at the company. Taking this stance might not be easy but it might be the key to getting the conditions in the workplace improved. It might also send the message that you know your rights.

EVALUATE THE REASON FOR A TERMINATION

Being let go from a job is a huge letdown for most people. Even if you expected that it would occur, there is a good chance that it is still disheartening. In many cases, you can’t do anything about being let go from a job. This isn’t the case if you were terminated for an illegal reason.

One of the first things that will come into the picture is the reason for the termination. California is an at-will employment state, which means that employees can quit for any reason and employers can fire employees for any reason. The exception to this is if the termination is due to a protected reason, such as race, disability, gender or others.

Another point that can come into the picture is whether you have an employment contract or not. If you do have a contract, you need to review it to determine if the termination was against those terms.

Illegal terminations and those that go against a contract might result in legal action against the employer. These cases are difficult for many reasons, but it is important that you carefully consider your options.

Evaluating the exact circumstances surrounding the termination is necessary. You want to ascertain the actual reason you were let go. If you have had good performance reviews and the company doesn’t need to cut costs, there might not have been a reason to let you go. This doesn’t mean that the firing was illegal. Instead, you need to look for signs that you were let go because of a protected reason. This might be the case if you reported misconduct and were fired after that.

Source: FindLaw, “Termination Basics,” accessed Dec. 15, 2017

TERMINATIONS CAN’T BE RETALIATORY OR DISCRIMINATORY

Employers often think very carefully before they terminate an employee. Unfortunately, there are also employers who fire people just because they aren’t happy with a complaint the employee made against the company or another worker. Even though California is an at-will employment state, employers can’t fire employees for discriminatory or retaliatory purposes.

We understand that your primary focus right now might be getting a job so you can pay your bills. But, do you really want to let your former employer get away with firing you for one of those illegal reasons? If you don’t want your employer to do that, you do have the option of taking legal action against the employer.

Getting your case together can take some work. We can help you gather what you need to get this done. You might need an account of the incident that led to your complaint, such as information about being sexually harassed. You might need a copy of your employment file that shows any evaluations or reviews you had.

Our goal is to prove that you were let go for an illegal reason. We need to show that your employer didn’t send you on your way because you weren’t capable of doing your job. This is something that can make a big difference in your case so we must handle it carefully.

As you work to fight back against the wrongful discharge, we will stand by you to make sure you understand your options. You can then make decisions about the direction of your legal claim based on that information.