How to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
Wrongful termination lawsuits can be daunting and downright scary. In a short of amount of time, your life can change. No longer do you have a stable amount of income, and you may lose the professional reputation you worked so hard to establish.
Employers cannot fire an employee for any reason. If the employer illegal fires an employee, the firing is known as a “wrongful termination.” In some cases, a wrongful termination lawsuit can help you get your job back. However, at this point the damage is done and the tension between your employer may be too high to go back. A court of law may help you get compensation for back pay, lost income, and emotional distress.
Wrongful termination comes in many forms. There are many ways an employer can unlawfully dismiss an employee. Some common forms of illegal dismissals include:
- Breach of Contract: usually employer-employee relationships in CA are at will. However, in many cases an employee signs an agreement with the employer stating they can be fired only for cause.
- Family or Medical Leave: if you take a protected leave of absence and you are fired for it, your employer likely committed a wrongful termination.
- Retaliatory Dismissal: If an employee reports a violation of law by an employer, the employer cannot retaliate against the employee for the reporting.
- Discriminatory Practices: Your termination cannot be based on age, race, disability, sex, gender, etc… If your termination was based on any of these characteristics, it is likely you were unlawfully terminated.
It is in the best interest of the employee to document everything that is occurring. This should occur once the employee starts to realize that the termination was wrongful or that harassment is occurring. This will help your lawyer prove the discrimination was unlawful.
The Steps to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
A prerequisite to filing a wrongful termination lawsuit is that you must first obtain a right-to-sue notice from a governing body. A governing body includes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). These governing bodies will take down your information, your story, and accompanying evidence. If they agree, they will issue a notice and you can start a lawsuit against your employer.
Tips to Proving Your Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
In addition to obtaining a right-to-sue letter, you must show that the termination was motivated by some unlawful reason. In order to do this, it is in your benefit to start evidencing everything you find unusual. Some tips to prove your wrong
- Obtain a termination notice: a termination notice is essentially a document clearly outlining the exact reason you were fired. You can then compare the reason you feel you were fired to the actual reason you were given.
- Send out a Personnel and Records Request: if you send a written or verbal notice to your employer, they are required by law to give you a copy of your personnel records.
- Keep a work diary: a work diary is a great way to keep track of all incidents in which you were retaliated against, discriminated against, or otherwise treated adversely. Your work diary should include the date, parties involved, and a clear and concise description of everything that happened that day. Also, this work diary will be extremely useful in your wrongful termination lawsuit.
- Get answers on whether your employer fired you for illegal reasons: this is where you’ll find a lawyer to be of most use. Employment laws are complex, convoluted, and confusing. Sometimes, it is impossible to tell whether your terminated was unlawful. However, by having a skilled lawyer by your side, you’ll be able to easily identify whether your termination was unlawful.
Why Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer for My Employment Case
You may be asking yourself, “what is the point of hiring an attorney when I can file a claim with the EEOC myself?” The answer to that question is simple. By having an attorney by your side, the chances of receiving a higher settlement or better verdict are exponentially increased. The EEOC has hundreds of thousands of claims they have to deal with on a daily basis. Therefore, the EEOC cannot give you the undivided attention you deserve for your case. Also, a lawyer will be able to file your lawsuit in state court, which has more advantages than federal law.
Furthermore, attorneys have a strong understanding of employment laws. Don’t be fooled by lawyers who do other forms of law. Hire an attorney who only focuses on employment law because it takes years of study to master the laws.
What Types of Compensation You Can Recover for Your Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
- Back Pay — You may be entitled to back pay which is the pay you would have received had you not been terminated. This includes actual wages and overtime.
- Front Pay – front pay includes the amount you should have received from the time of termination up until the date of judgement.
- Benefits — A court may decide to put a dollar amount on the amount of benefits you were to receive had you not been fired. For example, if you were promised health insurance, the courts may award a reasonable amount of money for you to pay for health insurance.
- Emotional Distress — It is likely that your wrongful termination caused a great deal of emotional distress. Based on case precedent you may be entitled to receive money for your injuries. This is the case even though your damages are not physical. In the past, juries have awarded millions of dollars in emotional distress.
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