Can I sue for being fired without warning? This question might come up in your mind if you’re ever in this situation. However, the answer isn’t straightforward, and you must consider certain nuances that differ with individual scenarios. If you think you may have been terminated unfairly without warning, we’re here to discuss this topic in-depth. Keep reading to learn more.
Can You Be Fired Without Written Warning?
Don’t you have to get a warning before your boss can fire you? Before answering this question completely, let’s understand what can be considered illegal in California’s employment landscape.
As a California employee, unless you have a contract stating that you have a job for a specific time period, you are likely “at will” and you can be fired without a written warning or any warning at all. Your company’s internal policies and work culture may prescribe a process for verbal warnings, written warnings, and final warnings before termination. However, under state laws, absent a contract, employers can fire employees (and employees can leave their jobs) at any given time without a warning. These laws are to ensure fair employment.
Let’s discuss California’s at-will employment doctrine to further understand it.
California’s At-Will Employment Doctrine
The federal government leaves certain policies and laws to individual states to decide. Therefore, things such as state minimum wage differ. Another area governed by the states is at-will employment.
Like most states in the United States, California follows the at-will employment doctrine. It means:
The employer and the employee can terminate the employment relationship whenever they want for any reason or no reason at all.
The employer nor the employee has to provide advance notice before ending the employment unless agreed upon.
This doctrine forms the foundation of nearly every employment relationship in the state. Moreover, it applies unless a specific employment contract states otherwise.
If the employment is covered by a union contract (collective bargaining agreement), the rules for termination are defined by that agreement. Employees should contact their local union representative if they have a dispute regarding termination.
However, the at-will employment doctrine does not grant employers unrestricted power to terminate employees without constraint. The doctrine’s legal limits don’t shield employers from liability in certain situations.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment
The at-will employment doctrine can be extremely beneficial for employers and employees. Nevertheless, using this doctrine for illegal actions has repercussions.
Here are some exceptions to at-will employment in California where you can sue for wrongful termination:
First of all, if an employer violates a contractual agreement, the termination may be wrongful and the employer can face legal action for breach of contract or breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. If you have an employment contract, the terms of that contract will govern your termination. Furthermore, your employer must adhere to the provisions specified in the contract regarding a notice period or termination conditions.
Hence, you may challenge termination through a legal claim if it occurred without warning or following the contract’s terms.
It is important to know that sometimes an “offer letter” is a contract, often times it is not. If you are not sure if you have a contract, contact a qualified California employment lawyer to help you make that determination.
What if you don’t have a written employment contract, but you think your employer may nevertheless have made enforceable promises to you about your employment, or how long it will last? That’s where implied contracts can help. They can be created through employer actions, such as verbal promises, employee manuals or handbooks, or other written policies.
So, suppose your employer made specific promises or established a consistent practice regarding job security or termination procedures? Depending on the circumstances, you may have grounds to argue that an implied contract exists and your termination was unlawful even though you don’t have a written employment contract. Because the circumstances giving rise to an implied contract are extremely fact specific, a California employment lawyer is essential to help you to determine whether the promises made to you are enforceable by a court.
Violation of Public Policy:
California also recognizes the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. You may have a legitimate basis for a wrongful termination case if you were fired for reasons contravening established public policy.
For example, you may have a case against your employer if you were wrongfully terminated for refusing to engage in certain activities, such as illegal actions. In California, you may also have a claim for wrongful termination if you engage in protected activities, such as whistleblowing, asserting your employee rights. Your employer also may not terminate your employment for engaging in lawful activities off-duty that your employer does not approve of, as this conduct is prohibited by the California Labor Code.
Discrimination and Retaliation:
Federal and California laws both prohibit employment discrimination, including employers from firing employees based on workplace discrimination against a protected class. Protected classes include race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
Additionally, employment retaliation for engaging in protected activities, like filing a workers’ compensation claim or participating in an investigation, is unlawful in California. You may have a valid wrongful termination claim if you believe your termination or other adverse employment action (like a demotion or pay cut, or reassignment to a less desirable position) was discriminatory or retaliatory.
Violation of Written Policies:
Your employer should follow any written policies or procedures for termination. After all, the employee handbook exists to make sure that employers and employees know what actions are permitted, and how employees will be treated. Furthermore, these policies often outline an employer’s steps before termination. It includes warnings, performance improvement plans, or grievance procedures.
You may have a claim for a wrongful termination if written policies or procedures for termination are not followed during your dismissal. Again, it is important to understand that the specific scenarios that could give rise to a wrongful discharge claim are based upon the individual facts.
A California employment attorney can assist you in determining whether your facts present a potential claim for unlawful termination.
Can I Sue for Being Fired Without Warning?
It may seem straightforward, as firing without warning isn’t prohibited in California. Therefore, yes, you can be fired without prior warning.
However, you can successfully file a lawsuit against your employer if any of the above exceptions apply to your case. In such instances, you can sue your employer for wrongful termination and seek justice.
Here’s the in-depth breakdown of the entire process you can ideally follow:
Consult with Reliable California Employment Attorneys
The most crucial step in pursuing a wrongful termination claim is consulting with reliable and experienced California employment attorneys. Seek an experienced employment attorney specializing in California wrongful termination cases and representing employees.
Such experts know the nitty-gritty of state and federal laws and can help you understand and protect your rights.
How Can a California Employment Lawyer Help
During your initial consultation, provide your attorney with all the details of your case. This would include any information regarding the circumstances surrounding your termination and relevant documents. Moreover, offer names of potential witnesses who can testify in your favor. Don’t leave anything out! It is critical that you give your employment lawyer all of the facts, good and bad, to make sure that they can properly evaluate and present your case.
The California employment lawyer will also review if other potential claims regarding unpaid wages , workplace sexual harassment, or gender discrimination apply. These claims would strengthen your case and help you seek economic justice.
The attorney will evaluate the strength of your claim and determine whether you have a legitimate case for an employment lawsuit. Furthermore, their knowledge and guidance can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Gathering and presenting evidence is the best way to win your case. Your lawyer will want to see documentation of anything you find helpful in your lawsuit. Hence, start gathering and preserving all pertinent documents related to your employment as soon as you think you may have a valid wrongful termination lawsuit under California law.
What Counts as Evidence?
Evidence consists of documents, photographs, videos, and testimony of witnesses. Collect evidence for your wrongful termination attorney regarding employment discrimination or retaliatory actions you believe were taken against you. This documentation can include:
policies and procedures
documentation of lost wages
And other written or electronic communication may support your case. Your co-workers can also help in this regard. Unfortunately, many employees do not pursue potential issues of wrongful conduct in the workplace, and do not want to get involved, due to the fear of retaliation. Though retaliation is unlawful, it still happens, and therefore California workers must be careful when approaching such conversations with coworkers.
Exhaust Internal Remedies
If you believe your employer acted unfairly and you may have a wrongful termination case, many employers have internal grievance procedures or dispute resolution processes. It’s advisable to follow these procedures before taking legal action. Your company’s HR may have experts offering advice for such situations, or you can refer to your company’s handbook.
Doing so demonstrates that you attempted to resolve the issue internally. This step can be seen as a reasonable effort on your part. Moreover, keep records of your interactions with the employer during this process.
File a Complaint
Internal remedies are great if they can yield satisfactory results. However, if internal remedies prove unsuccessful or unavailable, you still have some ways to seek a remedy for unlawful employment actions. You may be able to file a formal complaint with a relevant government agency in such cases.
For example, if your complaint involves discrimination based upon a protected category, or harassment, including sexual harassment, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which is a state agency that enforces the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Alternatively, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your claim involves federal laws.
The complaint should detail the allegations that substantiate your wrongful termination, provide supporting evidence, and include your contact information. These agencies investigate claims of discrimination, retaliation, and other employment-related violations.
Sounds challenging? A skilled lawyer well versed in federal and California law can help you determine if your employer violated the law and you have a valid legal claim, as well as navigate the process efficiently.
Internal remedies and government agencies are avenues to resolve your issues but not the cure-all solution. Hence, you may need to opt for a different route if all else fails and your wrongful termination claims are unresolved through these steps.
You can pursue litigation against your former employer with a lawyer’s help. Your attorney will guide you through the legal process. Wrongful termination lawsuits typically involve filing a complaint against the employer in the appropriate court.
Litigation can encompass various stages. It includes discovery (exchanging evidence between both parties), negotiation, and settlement discussions. However, negotiations and settlements don’t always work, and you may require going to trial.
Your attorney will represent you throughout this process. They will advocate for your employee rights in California and work to secure a favorable outcome. These may include reinstatement, monetary compensation such as lost wages, or other remedies deemed appropriate by the court.
Get Legal Advice from Expert California Employment Attorneys
“Can I sue for being fired without warning?” is a valid question for many California employees. While California law provides that most employees are at-will employees, and therefore provides employers with certain termination rights, it does not grant them absolute immunity from wrongful termination claims. California employees have legal protections under various circumstances, and state laws often favor fairness and justice.
If you’re wrongfully terminated without warning or you believe your termination was a potential violation of your rights, consult experienced employment lawyers and file a wrongful termination claim. They can assess your situation and provide expert assistance in pursuing your claim.
Moreover, dealing with a wrongful termination claim in California involves intricate knowledge of state employment laws, and a careful evaluation to determine if wrongful termination occurs under the facts of your case. Hence, appropriate legal representation through skilled employment law attorneys can significantly impact your wrongful termination case’s success.
Ready to take action and protect your employee rights in California? Contact us now at Bourassa Law Group, a recognized law firm, and file an employment lawsuit. Our skilled California employment law attorneys are ready to assist you in pursuing justice and fair treatment.
Let us advocate for upholding your rights and achieving the justice you deserve. The road to justice may seem long, but it all starts here. Don’t delay—contact our expert California wrongful termination lawyers for a confidential consultation today.
The Bourassa Law Group
9440 Santa Monica Blvd #301
Beverly Hills CA 90210
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