What To Do After Being Fired in California
Being fired from a job can be a harrowing experience, especially when an employee has done nothing wrong.
In many cases, employees leave the job site unaware that they are entitled to certain benefits.
In addition, because California presumes most employment relationships are at will, a recently terminated employee may be under the mistaken belief that they have no recourse for wrongful termination.
However, California law carves out exceptions in certain circumstances.
Do I Have a Claim for Back Wages?
California employment law provides for certain benefits for qualifying employees.
Benefits include a $15 minimum wage, paid overtime and rest breaks, and paid meal breaks if the employer requires the employee to stay on the premises.
To qualify for these benefits, an employee must:
- Make less than twice the federal minimum wage,
- Perform generally blue-collar duties, and
- Have little to no discretion in performing job duties.
If you qualify and are terminated with back wages still outstanding, you may be eligible to file a wage claim or civil lawsuit to recover what is owed.
If an employee succeeds on their claim, they may be entitled to not only back wages but attorneys’ fees and court costs as well.
What Is Wrongful Termination?
California law presumes that an employee is hired as an employee at will.
Employment at will permits the employer to fire their employees for any lawful reason, without cause, and without prior notice.
California law defines cause as "a fair and honest cause or reason, regulated by good faith on the part of the employer."
Employment at will simply means that an employer cannot be sued for breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
However, recently terminated at-will employees may still have a case for wrongful termination if they fall within several exceptions.
Breach of Implied Contract
An “implied contract” is an agreement that is not specified in a written employment agreement, but is nonetheless presumed to be a part of the agreement.
An employer creates an implied contract not to fire an employee without good cause by leading the employee to believe they can only be terminated for good cause.
An example might be an employer’s distribution of an employment handbook listing specific grounds for termination.
Violation of Public Policy
A recently terminated employee may have a case for wrongful termination where the termination occurs because the employee refused to go along with an employer’s unlawful conduct.
For example, a recently terminated employee might have a claim if they were fired for refusing to ignore their supervisor’s embezzlement schemes.
An employee might also have a claim for wrongful termination where the employee is a whistleblower. A violation occurs when an employer fires the employee for reporting legal violations of the business.
California law provides that employers may not retaliate against employees who report a violation of law by the employer.
Violation of Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Laws
Employers may not fire at-will employees for filing a complaint based on workplace harassment or discrimination. Nor can they fire employees for testifying against them in court.
Trust an Experienced Employment Law Firm
Our mission is to provide our clients with the highest caliber of legal services and professionalism. We understand that every employment law case is different, as are the goals and objectives of each client.
Whether you are seeking unpaid back wages or are the victim of workplace harassment, the attorneys at Starpoint Law, LC provide our clients with individualized attention and creative solutions.
We are with you every step of the way. Contact us today for a free consultation.