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How To Prove Wrongful Termination in California

Wrongful termination is a serious legal matter when an employee is dismissed from their job in violation of laws or public policy. In California, like many states, employees have certain rights and protections against arbitrary or discriminatory termination. Here is how to establish a strong case to prove wrongful termination.

Proving Wrongful Termination

Proving a case of wrongful termination involves presenting compelling evidence, such as the following:

  • Employment Records: Maintain detailed records of employment, including performance evaluations, commendations, and any documents indicating positive job performance.
  • Termination Documentation: Collect termination-related documents, such as termination letters, emails, or any communication providing reasons for the dismissal.
  • Witness Testimonies: If there were witnesses to the events leading to termination, gather their testimonies. Witnesses can provide crucial support in establishing the circumstances surrounding the termination.
  • Company Policies: Examine company policies and procedures to check if the termination was in violation of any established rules. Violating internal policies can strengthen a wrongful termination claim.
  • Personnel File: Request a copy of your personnel file, which may contain information relevant to your termination. California law allows employees to inspect and copy their personnel records.
  • Employment Contract: If there is an employment contract, review it to determine if the termination violates any contractual provisions. A breach of contract can be a basis for a wrongful termination claim.
  • Retaliation Evidence: If the termination resulted from engaging in legally protected activities, such as whistleblowing or reporting workplace violations, gather evidence supporting the retaliation claim.
  • Consult an Employment Attorney: Legal counsel from an experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer is crucial. They can assess the merits of your case, guide you through the legal process, and provide strategic advice on gathering and presenting evidence.

Understanding Wrongful Termination

California is an at-will employment state, meaning that, in the absence of a contract specifying otherwise, either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and termination is considered wrongful if it violates:

Discrimination Laws

Employers cannot terminate employees based on race, gender, age, disability, national origin, religion, or other protected characteristics.

Retaliation Laws

Employers cannot terminate employees for engaging in legally protected activities, such as reporting workplace violations, filing workers’ compensation claims, or asserting their rights.

Violation of Employment Contracts

If there is an employment contract, either written or implied, and the termination breaches the terms of the contract, it can be considered wrongful.

Public Policy Violation

Terminating an employee for reasons contrary to public policy, such as refusing to engage in illegal activities or exercising a legal right, may constitute wrongful termination.

How to File a Wrongful Termination Claim

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, the following steps can be taken:

File a Complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD)

Begin the process by filing a complaint with the CRD. You can do this online, by mail, or by calling the CRD’s Communication Center at 1-800-884-1684. The complaint should detail the circumstances of your termination and the grounds for your wrongful termination claim.

Request a Right-to-Sue Notice

Once you file a complaint with the DFEH, they will investigate your claim. After the investigation, you can request a right-to-sue notice, which grants you the authority to file a lawsuit against your former employer.

File a Lawsuit

If you receive the right-to-sue notice, you can proceed to file a lawsuit against your employer. This must be done within the specified time frame after receiving the notice, typically within two to three years of the alleged wrongful termination.

Settlement Negotiations or Trial

Before proceeding to trial, parties may engage in mediation or settlement negotiations. This can lead to a resolution without the need for a court trial. If a settlement is not reached, your case may proceed to trial. Your Los Angeles employment lawyer will help you prepare, including gathering additional evidence, identifying witnesses, and presenting your case in court. If the court rules in your favor, you may be awarded damages, reinstatement, or other remedies as determined by the court.