A wrongful termination claim may be filed in court when an employee believes he or she was unlawfully fired. At the core of a successful claim is an allegation that the employer violated federal or state employment laws, whistleblower protections, or employment contracts.
It may seem relatively straightforward when you lay it out like that, but it can sometimes be difficult to determine if a specific involuntary dismissal may have amounted to wrongful termination – especially if it was you who was dismissed from work.
There are several things that employers get wrong about wrongful termination, but understanding some of the most common misconceptions may be able to help you determine whether or not you should contact a lawyer. Read on as we outline and explain three of these common myths below.
Myth 1: An Unreasonable Termination is Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
If you disagree with your employer’s reasons for firing you, or weren’t given a reason, you might be tempted to think about filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. The problem with this, however, is that your employer may have been well within his or her rights to terminate you – particularly if you were employed at-will.
At-will employment is a widely adopted legal doctrine among private employers and is legal in California. If you were hired at will, your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all as long as the termination doesn’t violate any laws.
A termination that would violate the law could be one where the employer was motivated to take discriminatory action or retaliate against an employee who engaged in a protected workplace activity, like asking for unpaid earned overtime wages. In both situations, laws would have likely been broken by firing an employee.
Myth 2: It’s Impossible to Prove My Termination Was an Unlawful Retaliation
It can certainly be difficult to prove that an employee was terminated as a result of unlawful retaliation, but it’s never impossible. In a civil lawsuit, you only need to provide that the chance that your claim is true is greater than 50 percent. Don’t be misled into believing this is simple, because it certainly isn’t, but you won’t need to find a smoking gun and blood on your employer’s hands to prove your case.
Employers who understand the illegality of their actions may attempt to hide their tracks, but it’s not impossible to obtain documents and records that strongly indicate the real reason you were fired. Maintaining your own set of records when you experience unlawful treatment from your employer can also help if you are suddenly fired and believe it may have been a wrongful termination
Myth 3: I Can’t Sue My Employer If I Ended up Quitting
Even if you quit your job, California law says that you can still sue for wrongful termination.
This is known as a wrongful constructive termination, and it will require you to prove two things:
- First, you will need to demonstrate that your employer engaged in retaliation or intentionally created intolerable working conditions that would compel you to resign.
- Second, you will need to prove that had your employer simply fired you, you would have had grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
The second point is important because, unfortunately, your employer can make your working conditions as legally intolerable as possible without incurring liability. If they do so for a reason that amounts to discrimination or retaliation for a protected workplace activity, however, you may be able to hold them liable even if you quit.
Do You Need Legal Counsel?
At K2 Employment Law Group, we help employees fight to assert their rights after they have been mistreated by their employers. If you believe you were unlawfully dismissed from employment, you may have a valid wrongful termination claim.