Losing your job can have a major financial and emotional impact on your life.
Fortunately, you may have legal recourse.
Under certain circumstances, an employee may bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against an employer.
When Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in California?
You can file a wrongful termination lawsuit if your employer fired or laid you off for an illegal or improper reason, such as discrimination or retaliation. Employees have a limited time window, called a statute of limitations, to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Each state sets its own statute of limitations for wrongful termination cases. In California, the statute of limitations is either two (2) or three (3) years from the date of the wrongful termination.
When is a Firing or Layoff Considered a Wrongful Termination?
A wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires or lays off an employee for an illegal or improper reason. Both federal and state laws protect employees from being fired unjustly.
These laws exist to prevent employees from falling victim to discrimination, retaliation, and other unfair treatment. Most of the time, wrongful termination cases are brought by employees who have been fired or laid off due to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.
Forms of Discrimination that Can Lead to Wrongful Termination
There are many different forms of discrimination that can lead to wrongful termination. The most common include:
- Genetic Information
- National Origin
- Sex (Sexual harassment is illegal as a result of this classification)
- Sexual Orientation
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and other statutes govern discrimination in the workplace.
These laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on certain protected classes. If you have been fired or laid off due to discrimination, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.
Forms of Employer Retaliation that Can Lead to Wrongful Termination
In addition to discrimination, employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees. Retaliation is when an employer takes adverse action against an employee because the employee reported or was going to report illegal activity or participated in an investigation of illegal activity.
Some common forms of retaliation that can lead to a wrongful termination include:
- Activities related to status as a crime victim
- Caring for a newborn or newly adopted child
- Caring for an ill loved one
- Jury duty
- Managing a serious personal health condition
- Maternity leave
- Military service
- Participating in a substance treatment program
- Providing testimony as a witness
- Recovering from an injurious accident
- Recovering from bone marrow or organ donation
- Service as a volunteer first responder or reservist
The False Claims Act, the above-listed discrimination laws, the Family Medical Leave Act, and a variety of federal, state, and local laws also make retaliation illegal. If you have been fired or laid off due to retaliation, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.
Other Illegal Reasons for Firing or Laying Off an Employee
There are many other illegal reasons that an employer might fire or lay off an employee. Under both California state laws and federal laws, employers cannot terminate employees who:
- File a claim for workers’ compensation
- Take legally protected time off such as time for jury duty, medical or family leave, or time for military service
- File a discrimination claim with HR or state or federal authorities
- Refuse requests for sexual, financial, or personal favors in exchange for a promotion or raise
- Refuse to engage in illegal activities of any kind
- Join a union and participate in union activities
- Notify government agencies or proper authorities of potential workplace safety hazards that have been ignored
- Report suspected illegal activities on the part of a co-worker, manager, or the company itself to the proper authorities (whistleblowing)
Firing an employee outright or letting him or her go after any of the above scenarios would violate that employee’s rights. If this has happened to you, you may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. A wrongful termination lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Termination Claim in California?
The statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a lawsuit. After the statute of limitations expires, you are no longer able to file a claim. The amount of time you have to file a wrongful termination claim varies depending on the type of claim.
Breach of contract claims
two (2) years
You will have two years to file a breach of contract claim if you have an employment contract that was violated when you were fired or laid off.
Violation of public policy claims
two (2) year
You will have two years to file a violation of public policy claim if you were fired or laid off for participating in activities that are protected by state or federal law, such as jury duty, military service, voting, or reporting suspected illegal activity.
California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claims
three (3) years
You will have three years to file an administrative claim if you were fired or laid off due to retaliation, discrimination, or harassment.
California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) claims
two (3) years
You will have three years to file a claim if your employer violated the WARN Act by failing to give you 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff, plant closing, or relocation.
Whistleblowing protections claims
three (3) years
Under the California Labor Code, an employee who reports suspected illegal activity has three years from the date of the retaliatory action to file a claim.
Why is there a Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Termination Claims?
The statute of limitations is in place to ensure that lawsuits are filed while the evidence is still fresh and that defendants have a reasonable chance to defend themselves. If too much time has passed, memories may fade and evidence may be lost or destroyed.
This protects employers from having to defend themselves against claims that are based on old evidence and memories, which may not be accurate.
In addition, the statute of limitations gives employees a reasonable amount of time to file a claim. If an employee waits too long, he or she may be unable to recover damages.
IMPORTANT: It is always best to speak with a wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible after you have been fired or laid off. An experienced attorney can help you understand the applicable statute of limitations and ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner.
Why Do Some Agencies Require that You File an Administrative Claim Before Filing a Lawsuit?
You may need to file an administrative complaint before you can pursue a wrongful termination claim. Some agencies require this, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Employment Housing Commission (FEHC) in an effort to resolve the issue without going to court.
This is known as “exhausting your administrative remedies.”
If the agencies are unable to resolve the claim, they will issue a “right to sue” letter. This letter will give you permission to file a lawsuit against your employer.
IMPORTANT: It is important to note that there are strict deadlines for filing an administrative claim. If you miss the deadline, you will be barred from filing a lawsuit.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Wrongful Termination Claim
An experienced wrongful termination lawyer can help you determine whether you have a claim, the applicable statute of limitations, and whether you need to file an administrative claim.
Since each situation is unique, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after you have been fired or laid off.
A lawyer can also help gather evidence to support your claim and negotiate a settlement with your employer.
The California wrongful termination lawyers at Eldessouky Law have experience handling a wide variety of wrongful termination cases. We understand the laws and regulations governing these claims and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free consultation.