Disputes can arise between employees and their employers in many ways, and some of these interactions will end with an employee’s termination. California’s “at-will” employment law provides broad leeway for employers to fire employees. The at-will law allows an employer or an employee to end a working relationship at any time, with or without prior notice and with or without citing a specific reason. However, this law does not permit employers to terminate employees for illegal reasons.
One termination dispute that might arise is a firing based on a false accusation. For example, one employee accuses another employee of committing an offense they did not commit, and the supervisor fires the accused without investigating the allegation. While unfair to the accused, this would technically be a legal firing under California’s at-will employment law. The only exception to this would be if an employer used a false accusation as a cover to fire the employee for an illegal reason.
A wrongful termination case can seem very difficult to prove, especially one pertaining to false accusations against the terminated employee. These cases often require obtaining and cross-referencing statements from various parties involved in the situation. If you are unsure whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination claim in California, it’s important to consult an experienced employment lawyer.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States is responsible for enforcing the fair employment laws of the US across all industries. Employers must also abide by various state-level regulations regarding employees’ rights in California. If you have recently lost your job due to a false accusation, you may not have a case against your employer unless you can prove they violated EEOC regulations in your firing.
Proving discrimination is often challenging, and an experienced employment lawyer must carefully review the details of their client’s case to help them determine their best legal strategies. Successfully holding your employer accountable for your firing will likely require proving the employer had an unlawful discriminatory reason for firing you and used the accusation in question as a convenient excuse. Your attorney may help you prove that the false accusation against you was blatantly fictitious or that you were never provided any opportunity to defend yourself. They will also need to obtain evidence proving the real discriminatory intent behind your firing.
Your attorney may want to speak with current and former employees of the employer in question. These parties may have overheard the employer state their true intentions behind a recent firing or expose past workplace discrimination incidents. Ultimately, these cases can be tough to win, but a claimant may have more opportunities to build a case than they initially expect if they have reliable legal counsel advising them.
If you can prove your termination was wrongful, you must submit a claim to the EEOC and have them investigate. If the EEOC determines your claim is valid, you will receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the commission; this notice gives you the right to go ahead with a civil action against the defendant named in your complaint. At this time, your employer should seek to settle the matter swiftly. A speedy resolution through settlement negotiations is typically beneficial to both parties. However, some employment disputes regarding wrongful termination may escalate to litigation.
Once you have the support of the EEOC behind your claim, your employment attorney can help you calculate the damages you could potentially obtain from the defendant. Some plaintiffs in these cases seek reinstatement to their jobs and compensation for lost income and benefits. They may also recover from the emotional distress they experienced. Claimants may also seek compensation for lost income and emotional distress with no desire for reinstatement. Many employment disputes also result in liquidated damages for the plaintiff, typically equal to the economic damages they suffered.
A wrongful termination in California is any firing conducted on an illegal basis. Employers may not fire an employee based on the employee’s race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristics protected by the EEOC. While the at-will employment law may seem like the perfect cover for any employer to illegally fire any employee, this is not true, and an experienced attorney can help you determine whether your recent firing was wrongful.
If you were fired on the basis of a false accusation as cover for discrimination, you likely have grounds for a wrongful termination claim. However, you could also file a personal injury claim against your accuser for defamation. If you lost your job, or the accusation was particularly heinous, and you lost standing in your community, you can potentially hold your accuser accountable for reputational damage and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Defending against false accusations often requires producing contradictory evidence that conflicts with the accuser’s claims. There may be more evidence supporting your side of the incident than you initially realize, such as interior security camera footage from your workplace, statements from co-workers and witnesses, or proof that you were not in the area where the incident occurred. Your attorney can advise you on the best strategies available in your case.
The compensation available in a wrongful termination case hinges on the unique details of the case. Some claimants can claim damages including back pay, front pay, lost value of benefits, attorneys’ fees, and compensatory or liquidated damages equal to the amount of economic damages sustained. They may also have grounds to seek compensation for emotional distress and may receive punitive damages to reflect an employer’s unlawful behavior. The average settlement for wrongful termination in California is roughly $40,000, but every case is different, and you could obtain much more with the help of an attorney.
The Law Offices of Miguel S. Ramirez have the experience and resources you need to approach your wrongful termination case with confidence. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with a reliable California employment attorney.