Losing a job feels like an unexpected blow from behind. You didn’t realize you’ve been hit, but your life has already turned upside down. A wrongful termination may be a bigger storm that will send you downhill. More than the apparent financial strain, it can affect your reputation and, in turn, damage your career. Such damages will leave you helpless and desperate, unable to move forward.
This does not have to be a permanent downfall. You can rise from this drawback, of course, with some extra helping hands from expert professionals. If you have a strong claim that your termination was unjust, then you may be eligible to file a lawsuit for lost wages and other damages incurred from the untimely loss of your job. Read here if you want to know more about unjust termination.
This type of lawsuit typically has a statute of limitations of 1 year, so it is essential to find the right lawyer to help you. Lawyers who specialize in representing individuals who suffer injustices in their workplace are called employment attorneys and will be your rightful ally. They play a crucial role in safeguarding your rights and helping you navigate the intricacies of employment law.
What can you expect from your lawyers as you start the legal process of securing the justice you so rightfully deserve?
Assessment And Legal Consultation
With California upholding an “at-will” employer-employee relationship, this could create confusion and a sense of powerlessness on your side. Thus, it is essential that you provide an accurate narrative as much as you can. Even the tiny details can help them gain insight and deeply comprehend the circumstances that lead to your termination.
Employment lawyers will then draw from their extensive expertise and determine whether or not your termination violates any state or federal law. If so, there are different types of claims that you can pursue, depending on your contract.
Above all else, your contract works best as your bargaining chip to negotiate your separation package. Your lawyer may ask you a series of questions to determine what may be the right path to take. So be sure to be familiar with the terms you signed up for and ask your lawyer how you can use them to your advantage.
One of the unlawful reasons your employer may fire you is because you reported some illegal practices in the workplace, such as harassment or any illegal labor-related practices. Taking some time off for personal reasons like medical, jury duty, or other emergencies is also grounds for retaliation claims.
There are many more ways you can claim retaliation if you are doing an activity that is protected by law. Also, it will only work if you and your lawyer can prove that your termination is a direct result of your doing that activity.
Another ground for a claim is when you are fired because of your race, color, nationality, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. Here’s more information about the protected characteristics against discrimination and harassment: https://www.ncsl.org/labor-and-employment/discrimination-and-harassment-in-the-workplace
Your employment attorney may advise you to file a discrimination claim if you feel like you are being unfairly prejudiced for who you are. If you win a lawsuit for this claim, your employer will be legally obliged to pay for lost wages and benefits, your attorney fees, and other punitive damages.
Filing For Administrative Complaint
Once you and your lawyer have determined what actions to take, the next step usually involves them recommending that you file a complaint with the appropriate agencies. There are many federal and state agencies you can file your complaints. For instance, for discrimination claims, you can lodge a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In the state of California, you can also file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), especially for retaliation complaints.
It is important that you take note of the deadlines for these filings. Federal agencies usually give a 300-day deadline to file your complaint starting from the day you got fired. On the other hand, California state has a one-year statute of limitation from the date of the alleged wrongful termination. These deadlines are very critical as complaints filed after expiry may have your claims immediately dismissed.
Lawyers are hired exactly for their negotiation skills. Leave it to your employment lawyer to get you an equitable settlement without having to pursue any court proceedings. This usually involves a demand letter sent to your employer by your lawyer. This letter contains complete details of your complaints and grievances, and some suggested resolutions.
Negotiations will then follow, where your lawyer will meet with your employer’s legal team and see where they can reach a mutually agreeable settlement. This means that your complaints should be effectively addressed expediently without incurring additional costs.
When both parties fail to come to an amicable resolution, the legal battle begins. You will have the option to advance to pursuing a formal legal action by having your lawyer file a lawsuit on your behalf. This involves the preparation of a comprehensive legal complaint that outlines a detailed account of your allegations. In addition, the document will also state your expected resolution, such as reinstatement, compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages.
Your lawyer will then start the long process of discovery. This involves collecting evidence, deposing witnesses, and preparing for court proceedings. This is expected to be a lengthy, meticulous process to make sure that everything is covered. Your lawyer is responsible for minimizing any opportunity for the other party to attempt to blindside you or protect your case from any unforeseen development.
On your trial date, your employment attorney will then represent you in court. Standing before a judge, or in some cases, a jury, your lawyer will present the merits of your case and effectively convince the court to rule in your favor. Litigation is a crucial process for your lawyer to display their expert legal knowledge and skills in persuasion to secure a desirable outcome for the injustices that you have suffered.
Potential Outcomes And Resolutions
When the litigation process is complete, there is only one outcome your lawyer would hope to have. That is to achieve as much resolution as you expect that is allowable to the courts. These potential remedies could include reinstatement, monetary compensation, severance negotiations, and protection from retaliation.
Reinstatement means you will be reinstated in the same position you had before. Being back in the same position also means you will have the same rights, status, and benefits as you did before the termination. This will also make sure that you will not have to face any more unfair scenarios in your workplace.
Another remedy to rectify the injustice is to have your employer pay monetary damages. After the wrongful termination is proven, your financial compensation could include a payback of lost wages, front pay, or the wages you could have earned, and compensatory damages for emotional distress. In some cases, specifically those that warrant a legal punishment, you are also eligible for punitive damages. You will also need to be reimbursed for your attorney fees incurred during the whole process.
Your employment lawyer can also negotiate for severance pay if your employer did not offer it at the time of your termination. This severance package should take into account your contributions to the company and cover the financial support you need during your transition. This package can also extend to non-monetary compensation, such as a positive reference or other benefits as you move forward with your post-employment period. Read more about the severance package from this article.
Another remedy that your lawyer can fight for you is protection from retaliation. They will shield you from any potential retaliation activity from your previous employer, ensuring that your rights are not violated during the legal process.
Unlawful terminations are tricky, and sometimes the outlook seems defeating. However, with an employment lawyer with you, your future can significantly change from grim to hopeful. California is already a state that has strong protection for workers, and this should work to your advantage. Your employment lawyer will serve as your voice, so you get the remedy you deserve for being in a stressful situation. They will be your powerful advocates who will ensure you have the proper support, knowledge, and legal representation needed to navigate the complex and primarily intimidating litigation process.