Getting fired can be extremely stressful and confusing for anyone — it’s also all too easy to take it personally. With the high value that our society places on productivity and economic well-being, losing a job can feel like an attack on your very worth as a human being. When you’re fired for a reason that seems unfair or downright illegal, such as discrimination or retaliation, it can feel even worse.
When your employer fires you for an illegal reason — such as your race, disability, pregnancy, or because you reported a safety violation — this is called wrongful termination. Like any other victim of a crime, you have the right to stand up for yourself and pursue justice in a court of law. The employment law experts at Clark Employment Law, APC, can help.
There are several protected classes and conditions when it comes to workplace rights under both federal and California law. The first thing you should understand is that unless you’re protected by a union membership or a robust employment contract for a high-end role, it is usually perfectly legal for an employer to fire you without giving you any reason. This is called “at-will” employment, and we’ll come back to it. Even though your employer is not obligated to state a reason for firing you, however, they can still be sued if their underlying reason can be proved to be illegal in a court of law.
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are illegal, period. When they are taken to extremes and someone ends up wrongfully terminated as a form of punishment or retaliation, that person is legally entitled to pursue significant damages for their lost income, related expenses, and non-economic damages like psychological distress.
Emotions often run high in the aftermath of losing a job, and it can be difficult to think through the circumstances logically and objectively. When you’re feeling wronged and upset, it is natural to feel like any termination constitutes wrongful termination. This is another area where a professional attorney from Clark Employment Law will be a crucial asset. By contacting Clark Employment Law for a free consultation, you can get professional help to determine if your case is worth pursuing before you put any additional effort or resources into it. Even if your former employer’s reasons for firing you are murky or left unstated, you may be able to build a case using other types of evidence.
There are several possible identifiers involved when a court official is attempting to determine whether a firing meets the definition of wrongful termination. These are spelled out fairly clearly by state and federal statutes, although some do leave room for nuance and interpretation.
Being fired can constitute wrongful termination when any of the following factors are involved:
While the law sets forth fairly clear standards for when to call a firing a wrongful termination, that won’t always mean proving wrongful termination in a court of law is easy or quick. The amount of time it takes to process your case and the amount of the eventual payout will be affected by factors such as the quality and quantity of available evidence. Retaining quality legal representation from Clark Employment Law will maximize your chances of presenting that evidence in a way that compels state authorities to take your case seriously.
If you have a reason to think you’ve been fired unlawfully, Clark Employment Law can help you assert your rights and get started on the road to justice with a free, no-obligation consultation. Our expert legal team has extensive experience resolving wrongful termination claims in the San Francisco court system and pursuing the maximum possible settlement on behalf of our clients.
Wrongful termination cases can be difficult to gather evidence for, and it will be in your best interests to begin this evidence-gathering process the very moment you’re fired — whether you were prepared for it or not.
Wrongful termination can be notoriously hard to prove due to the current national paradigm of “at-will employment.” At-will employment is essentially a catch-all term for a series of labor regulations and workplace norms governing hiring, working, and terminating employment. These rules largely favor employers. Under at-will employment agreements, your boss is under no obligation at all to give you any reason when they fire you. The unsettling truth is that it’s perfectly legal for most employers to fire most employees with no notice, for no reason. But that doesn’t mean they can fire you for illegal reasons and simply refuse to state the truth. If an employer does elect to tell you why they’re firing you, listen up. Document their reasoning exhaustively, whether you believe it or not. If any of your employer’s stated reasons for letting you go are rooted in discrimination or retaliation or are inaccurate based on other evidence, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
Proving this will involve collecting evidence. First, request a complete copy of your employee file, including any performance reviews or write-ups of workplace incidents. Try to get this before leaving on the day you’re fired. You are legally entitled to review a copy of this information, and if your employer fails to cooperate, it could constitute an additional violation. Make them aware that you know your rights, but do not attempt to escalate the situation any further. Document their refusal to give you your paperwork and let your wrongful termination attorney and the proper authorities handle it from there.
Even when your employee records contain no rationale for the firing, this can provide clues that may help determine the true cause of your firing and whether it was illegal. While some employers make wrongful termination cases easy by putting their foot in their mouth and using harassing or discriminatory language, most are smarter and more professional than that — especially when they’re breaking the law — and in such cases, proving wrongful termination may rest on a combination of small but meaningful details. Fully document all communications with your ex-employer and give them all to your lawyer, even if they seem irrelevant. This will help them unravel the truth behind your termination and build a winning legal strategy to secure compensation.
A wrongful termination case can frequently go hand in hand with defamation, another legally actionable issue that you may be able to hold an employer accountable for. When an employer wants to obscure their true reasons for firing someone (because those reasons are discriminatory or otherwise illegal), they may attempt the tactic of lying about the employee’s skills, abilities, ethics, or reputation to paint a certain picture of the situation. You don’t have to stand for it. Your San Francisco wrongful termination attorney can review your case to determine if you may also be able to hold your employer accountable for defamation in addition to wrongful termination.
While employers have nearly boundless authority to fire employees without notice or just cause, workers still have clearly defined rights under the law. You are legally entitled to the following when you’ve been fired:
A: Yes, if you have been fired from a job for an illegal reason, you can take legal action against your former employer to recover lost income and other damages. For a firing to be considered wrongful termination, the reason behind the firing must be proved to represent discrimination, retaliation for protected workplace actions, breach of contract, or violation of labor laws. A qualified employment law attorney from Clark Employment Law can help you determine if your case is legally actionable.
A: When someone loses a job suddenly, under false pretenses, it can have serious and immediate consequences in their day-to-day lives. Most notably, the fired worker loses their income, which means their ability to support themselves and provide basic needs for themselves and their dependents. Additionally, when you are fired, it may affect the benefits available to you through the state as a newly unemployed person. If you are laid off, let go due to downsizing, determined not to be a good fit for your position, your employer goes out of business, or you leave your job for some other valid reason, you can collect unemployment benefits while you look for new work. If, however, your employer says they fired you due to misconduct, you cannot collect unemployment, further compounding the economic damage done by your wrongful termination.
A: It depends. While it is rude, merely telling a lie about someone is not illegal. If, however, your employer’s lies constitute harassment, intimidation, or discrimination, you may be entitled to take them to court for damages. When a firing is paired with false accusations that are concocted in an attempt to obscure your employer’s true reasons for firing or demoting you, you likely have grounds to file a wrongful termination claim.
A: Yes, unfortunately, most employment contracts in California and elsewhere in the modern United States are “at will.” At-will employment gives you the right to walk off your job at any time without notifying your employer, but the other side of that coin is that your employer can fire you at any time, without notice, and without stating any reason.
Have you been terminated in the San Francisco area and been left wondering if you have a wrongful termination case? You don’t have to take disrespect and illegal behavior from employers and faceless corporate interests. The team at Clark Employment Law, APC will be honored to help you stand up for yourself and pursue the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to. When you’ve been wronged at work, contact Clark Employment Law to set up a no-obligation consultation as your first step towards setting things right.