How To File A Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Losing your job can be devastating. Being wrongfully fired can be even more distressing. Suing for wrongful termination can give you the justice you desire. It can also compensate you for damages caused by improper termination. 

Can I File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Termination at Will?

Before discussing how to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination, you need to determine whether your termination was legal or illegal. California is an “at-will” employment state. Typically, an employer can fire an employee at any time for any legal reason. In many cases, the employer does not even need a reason to fire an employee.

However, there are exceptions. Employment laws and anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from terminating employment if the termination violates anti-discrimination laws or an employee’s civil rights. If the termination was unlawful, the employee might have a wrongful termination claim. 

Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination?

Whether you have a cause of action for wrongful termination depends on the circumstances surrounding your termination. 

Some of the reasons that an employee could have for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit include:

Breach of an Employment Contract

Employment contracts set the terms and conditions of employment. 

An employment contract may define:

  • The employment duration
  • Employment conditions
  • Other terms related to the employee’s job 

Therefore, these agreements can impact whether an employer can legally terminate employment and under what circumstances. 

An employer has the right to fire an employee if the employee violates any terms of the employment contract. Poor performance may be grounds for termination under the contract. An employment lawyer would need to review the contract to determine whether the employer wrongfully terminated the employee.

Employment agreements are different from employee handbooks. An employment agreement is a valid, legally enforceable contract between you and your employer. It is specific to your employment.

An employee handbook applies to all employees within the company. Most employee handbooks state that employees are considered at-will employees unless they have an employment contract. However, there could be instances in which an employer might violate the conditions outlined in the employee handbook that would violate an employee’s rights. 

Discrimination in the Workplace

Federal and state anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing employees based on protected classes. 

Federal anti-discrimination laws protect individuals from discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity, pregnancy, and sexual orientation)
  • Age (40 years and older)
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Genetic information 
  • Color

California also has state laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. In some cases, our state laws offer more protection than federal laws — California protects employees from discrimination due to medical conditions, marital status, and military/veteran status. 

Deciding whether to file a lawsuit for discrimination under state or federal statutes can be complicated. There could be advantages to filing your lawsuit in state court versus federal court and vice versa. You can learn how to file a discrimination lawsuit for wrongful termination by contacting an employment law attorney near you.

Constructive Discharge Lawsuits 

Constructive discharge occurs when an employee quits because of a hostile work environment. In these cases, the employee did not want to quit, but the employer made it impossible for the employee to continue working. 

Things that could justify a wrongful termination lawsuit based on constructive discharge include, but are not limited to:

Unpleasant working conditions or dislike for your job duties are not constructive discharge. Constructive discharge is when an employer knowingly allows or intentionally creates a work environment intended to force the employee to quit.

Violations of Public Policy

If an employer terminates an employee for reasons that violate public policy, the employee might have grounds for a wrongful termination claim. 

Terminations of employment that might violate public policy would include firing someone for:

  • Serving on jury duty
  • Fulfilling their obligations to the National Guard
  • Reporting harassment
  • Taking time off work to vote
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim

Under these circumstances, the firing may be unlawful. 

Filing a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Employment laws can be confusing. If you believe that your termination was wrongful, it is wise to seek legal advice from a California employment law attorney. 

A lawyer analyzes the circumstances surrounding your termination. The attorney then determines whether the termination may have violated employment laws and explains your options for seeking compensation for wrongful termination.