What should I do if I have been unfairly fired from my job?
Being fired from work unexpectedly can be a stressful experience that can leave a person feeling unsure about their options. Upon the termination of employment, the first step to take is to determine whether the termination is illegal. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer unfairly terminates an employee in violation of federal or California employment laws.
If an employee is fired due to discrimination, harassment, retaliation for complaining about safety issues or illegal activity at the workplace, breach of an employment contract or other similar reasons, the employer may have acted illegally. In such circumstances, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination that would entitle him or her to damages in court.
However, an employer simply treating an employee differently or unfairly from other workers is not enough to constitute discrimination or harassment. Wrongful termination claims are applicable under only very specific circumstances. Illegal discrimination or harassment must be on the basis of a legally-protected class, including sex, race, color, age, national origin, disability, serious medical condition, pregnancy, family status, religion or sexual orientation. In order to have a wrongful termination claim, the employee must prove that the employer’s differential treatment of them was motivated by their being part of a protected class.
An employee may also have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit if the employer fired the employee or retaliated against them for being a whistleblower. Whistleblowing can include complaining about the employer’s illegal activities — such as wage violations or dishonest accounting practices — refusing to participate in criminal acts, reporting safety violations or filing a claim of illegal discrimination or sexual harassment. However, termination is not the only retaliatory action employers have been known to take against an employee who reports unlawful conduct in the workplace. A worker can also experience a pay cut, demotion or other disciplinary actions, which can constitute retaliation on the employer’s part.
A wrongfully terminated employee is entitled to recover past and future lost wages and benefits, as well as compensation for emotional distress. Speaking to experienced employment attorneys can help as they can determine the strength of the case and whether the employer has engaged in wrongful conduct in terminating employment.
McCormack & Erlich is a San Francisco law firm serving all of Northern California and specializing in the field of employment law. We have extensive expertise in helping people who have been wrongfully terminated and retaliated against recover their damages.