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  • By: David Kaufman, Esq.
  • Published: February 5, 2024
An image of an employment agreement signed with a pen - Law Offices of David A. Kaufman, APC.

Few things are as important to our daily lives as our jobs. Employment can determine everything from your standard of living to medical care options. It is what we spend our days doing and, hopefully, adds meaning and passion to our lives while helping us care for our loved ones.

But all of that can come crashing down in an instant. The words “You are fired” or “Sorry, we have to let you go” haunt our nightmares. This article explains what kinds of legal options are available to employees in California, including:

  • The most common kinds of employment claims and disputes in California.
  • How “employment-at-will” affects your right to bring wrongful termination claims in California.
  • What you should do (and who you should talk to) if you feel your rights are being or were violated in the workplace.

When Should I Reach Out To A California Employment Or Termination Claim Attorney?

Being fired is one of the most humiliating and unpleasant experiences that most Californians will nevertheless experience one or more times in their life.

Employment termination can all too quickly leave you feeling like you have been taken advantage of, asking yourself if your employer has been unfair and what your rights might be. If you are wondering if what your employer did was fair or legal, it is time to talk to a California employment claim attorney.

Sometimes, you might not even have been fired yet, but you can feel it coming. You may feel like you are being set up for it as your employer puts you on corrective action plans or disciplines you unfairly.

If you feel helpless or like you are being pushed out, an employment attorney can help you regain some agency in the process and ensure your rights will be respected.

If you have been the victim of employer retaliation or discrimination, especially if it results in termination, an employment attorney can help you make a claim. You might not always be able to make a claim for unfair wages or working conditions, but if things go as far as termination, it is absolutely time to contact an attorney.

Together, we will figure out your rights and, if they have been violated, take action against your former employer. Unfortunately, this is not always easy or straightforward to do, especially given California’s “at-will-employment” policy.

What Does Employment At Will Mean For Employees In California?

Employment at will is the presumption, in California, that your employment is not for any fixed term unless there is a written contract specifying one. It means that, as an employee, you could quit tomorrow, but also that an employer could terminate you whenever they want.

This sounds bad for your possibility of making a claim, but there are exceptions to this presumption. Despite this policy, an employer cannot terminate your employment for any reason that specifically violates California law.

For example, there are whistleblower protection laws for retaliation and a whole set of rules relating to discrimination. There are specific laws that relate to discrimination. Your termination can also be considered to be wrongful under common law if it violates public policy.

Thus, despite the employment-at-will presumption, these exceptions give you legal recourse if you can prove that the employer may have terminated you for an illegal reason. And that is where you will need the help of an experienced California employment claim attorney.

When Do California Employees Have A Right To File Lawsuits For Wrongful Termination?

If you believe your employer may have fired you illegally, it is important to sit down with an attorney and outline what happened. The more of your story you can share accurately, the better your chances of bringing forward a successful wrongful termination lawsuit against them.

After hearing all the details, your attorney will be able to tell you under what California statutes you can sue them. This is doubly important because the specific laws involved also determine the timeline you have to make your claim.

  • If there was discrimination or retaliation that falls under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you used to only have one year, but now you have three years to request the right to sue from their civil rights division.
  • The limit is two years for common law wrongful discharge claims.
  • You have three years for a labor code 1102.5 retaliation claim.
  • Wage claims also have a three-year deadline, though it can depend on the details.

Once you have figured out, with your attorney’s help, under what laws you can claim compensation from your former employer, it is time to start taking action.

What Steps Should I Take If I Feel My Rights Are Being Violated Or If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

Whether you have already been terminated or are still experiencing discrimination and feel like you might be fired soon, the most important first step you should always take is to document everything.

Save the emails and send copies of everything to your attorney; even things like performance improvement plans or disciplinary records can be helpful. Request a copy of your personnel file. Be proactive about gathering such potential evidence because you might soon find yourself needing it.

Your attorney is then much better prepared to advise you, including when you contact others or are contacted before being fired. To help ensure you end up with a viable claim, your lawyer will walk you through the process to help you figure out how to deal with the situation and your employer.

Sometimes, the best move may not be bringing a lawsuit, but negotiating a good severance and walking away. Other times, however, litigation will be the only option available. Lawsuits are expensive, however, and not always worth bringing, so if an attorney is telling you should, chances are you have a strong claim.

If I Suspect I Will Be Fired, Is It Safe To Talk To Human Resources About The Situation?

Dealing with Human Resources (HR), your manager, or a supervisor can be an extremely stressful and difficult situation to navigate on your own. Working with an attorney can help you figure out how to discuss your fears, and how to negotiate a solution.

Sometimes doing so will allow you to negotiate severance and let you part ways amicably with both sides getting what they want and need. This can let you separate without the additional cost, turmoil and stress of an employment claim or wrongful termination lawsuit. These cases can stretch on for years and years and end up costing most or all of what they are worth.

By working with an attorney before these sorts of meetings, you can have more confidence heading in. Empowered by the knowledge of your rights and options, it will feel less like a chess game with the employer that you are destined to lose.

It will help you make moves that will maximize your benefits and protect your interests. In addition, it gives you someone in your corner who understands your case and is ready to fight for your claim. For more information on Employment Law And Wrongful Termination Claims In CA, an initial consultation is your next best step.

Attorney David Kaufman has many areas of proficiency, the first and foremost of which is personal injury representation – where he serves injured accident victims in La Jolla and surrounding areas of California. Attorney Kaufman brings an impressive ease with words to the explanation of a complex and emotionally difficult field, helping accident victims understand how to recover their sanity as well as substantial financial compensation

Connect with the Law Offices of David A Kaufman, APC for keen-minded and easy-to-follow insights on how to navigate the field of personal injury law in California.

Call For A Free Consultation - (619) 612-5554.

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