We Help Protect
California's Employees


Have you been fired for standing up for your rights at work? Were you let go during a layoff targeting only people over 40? Were you forced to resign after making a whistleblower report? If any of these issues sound familiar, you may have experienced wrongful termination. 

However, wrongful terminations can be difficult to prove. Before filing a claim, you must understand when a dismissal is unlawful. Below, we’ve broken down elements of wrongful termination into a simple checklist to help you determine if it’s time to talk to an employment lawyer about your claim. 

Understanding Wrongful Termination

California is an at-will employment state, meaning employers and employees can end a working relationship for almost any reason. However, that’s a big “almost.” Laws like the Civil Rights Act (CRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) all bar employers from firing workers for certain reasons. 

These laws define protected activities and characteristics that cannot be considered when making “adverse employment” actions like firing or demoting someone. If someone is fired for a protected reason, it is wrongful termination

Some of the most common examples include firing people for:

  • Whistleblowing retaliation: Reporting illegal activity or regulatory violations is a protected activity. If your employer fires you because of it, that is unlawful.
  • Disability accommodations: As long as you can do your job with reasonable accommodations, your health or disability cannot be used to make employment decisions. 
  • Gender, racial, or religious bias: Firing someone because of their race, gender, religion, or another protected characteristic defined under FEHA is unlawful in California. 

Additionally, if you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that sets terms for termination, your employer must follow them. If they did not, such as by firing you without notice or for a reason prohibited in the contract, that is another form of unlawful dismissal.

Potential Remedies for Wrongful Terminations

If you have been wrongfully terminated, you may have the right to receive compensation from your employer. Potential remedies include:

  • Reinstatement of employment
  • Compensation for lost wages and benefits
  • Damages for emotional distress or reputational harm

In other words, you could get your job back as well as back pay, benefits, and additional compensation for the stress and hassle of filing a lawsuit. 

The Three-Point Checklist for Wrongful Termination Issues

Before you can file a claim, you should be certain that your case meets the requirements for wrongful dismissal under federal or state laws. The following three-point checklist can help you determine if you might qualify. 

1. Did You Lose Employment?

A wrongful discharge case requires you to have lost your job. Typically, this means that you were fired or laid off. However, it can also include being forced to quit. 

This is known as “constructive dismissal.” It occurs when your employer makes your working conditions hostile, specifically to convince you to quit instead of firing you. 

You do not have a wrongful termination case if you still work for the company. You may be able to file a discrimination or retaliation claim instead. 

2. Did You Experience Previous Discrimination, Harassment, or Retaliatory Actions?

Because California is an at-will state, you need to prove that you were fired for an unlawful reason to have a case. If you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, proving this may be simple. However, the situation is more difficult if you believe you were fired for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

The best way to prove it is by showing that your employer has a history of discriminating against workers. This can include:

  • Policies that only apply to certain genders or races
  • A history of HR complaints about a manager’s inappropriate behavior
  • A trend of giving certain groups of people worse performance evaluations 
  • Communications warning you not to report unlawful activity

In short, you should have strong evidence that suggests you were fired for a protected activity or trait to make a successful claim. 

3. Can You Disprove Your Employer’s Reason for Your Dismissal?

By definition, wrongful termination only occurs when it is prompted by a protected trait or activity or violates a contract. Even if you can prove you experienced harassment or discrimination at work, you still need to prove that it was the reason for your termination. Good evidence for this includes:

  • A history of positive performance reviews
  • Strong results and achievements at work
  • Positive feedback from customers
  • Testimony from your colleagues about your behavior and abilities

These details help demonstrate that you performed well and can contradict your employer’s narrative about your termination.

Steps to Take if You Suspect Wrongful Termination

If you can answer “yes” to the three checklist questions above, you may have been unlawfully dismissed. If you want to hold your employer accountable for harming you, here’s what to do next:

  • Documenting evidence of termination: Save as much information about your final days and weeks at your job as possible. This evidence includes more than just your employment contract and termination notice. Collect emails with discriminatory language, save texts or voicemails threatening you with retaliation, and get copies of performance reviews if you can. 
  • Seeking legal advice from an experienced lawyer: With this information, talk to a skilled wrongful termination lawyer in California. They will listen to your concerns and advise whether you have a worthwhile claim.
  • Reviewing employment contracts and policies: If your lawyer agrees you have a case, you will examine your evidence carefully. Your attorney will use this information to build your case and help you achieve the best possible outcome. 

If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated in San Francisco, you should talk to the experts at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP. We can help you understand what counts as wrongful termination in California and help you pursue justice. Schedule your consultation today to take the first step toward holding your employer accountable for its actions. 

Imagine your spouse needs surgery, and you request time off work to care for them as they recover. Instead of granting your request, you get fired for “not being a team player.” 

Imagine you receive a cancer diagnosis and must take one day off work each week to attend and recover from chemotherapy. You get the time off, but your employer later fires you for not meeting the same productivity standards as your coworkers, who are healthy and working five days a week.

These situations and untold others are examples of being fired for taking protected leave. Not only is it unjust and harmful to fire someone caring for their family, but it’s also illegal in most situations in California. It’s considered retaliation for a protected action and grounds for a lawsuit. 

While retaliating against an employee for protected actions is illegal, it occurs too often. If you’ve been fired for taking protected leave, you have the right to hold your employer accountable. Here’s what you need to know about when your employer can fire you, what counts as retaliation, and your rights after you’ve been wrongfully terminated. 

Can You Be Fired for Taking Leave?

California offers some of the broadest protected leave in the US. Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), companies with five or more employees must grant eligible workers 12 weeks of unpaid family and medical leave if they meet certain conditions, including:

  • They have performed at least one year of work with the employer.
  • They have done at least 1,250 hours of work for their employer in the past year.
  • Their leave request is for their own serious medical condition, to care for a designated person with a severe health condition, or to bond with a new child.

If these conditions are met, an employer must grant the worker up to 12 weeks of time off and cannot retaliate against them for requesting or taking the time off. 

However, leave is not protected if a worker doesn’t meet these criteria. In that case, an employer can fire the worker for any reason permitted in their employment contract. 

What Counts as a Retaliatory Termination?

California is an at-will state, meaning employers and employees can choose to end their working relationship for any reason at any time. The only exceptions are for protected activities and characteristics. Employers cannot terminate an employee for features like their race or gender or for engaging in protected activities like:

  • Requesting or taking CFRA leave
  • Requesting accommodations for a disability, pregnancy, or religious belief
  • Attending or refusing to participate in religious services
  • Filing complaints about discriminatory behavior
  • Resisting harassment or assault
  • Reporting illegal activities (“whistleblowing”) to supervisors or regulatory agencies
  • Refusing to perform illegal or discriminatory actions

If you do anything listed above and your employer fires you because of it, that is considered retaliation

Your Rights After Wrongful Termination in California

If you’ve lost your job due to retaliation, that is considered wrongful termination. California grants victims of wrongful termination several options to hold their employers accountable for violating their rights. Here’s what you can expect after you’re wrongfully fired.

Standard Post-Termination Rights

No matter why you were fired, you have the same post-termination rights as any other worker. These include:

  • Receiving your final paycheck immediately.
  • Having any unused vacation or paid time off days paid out in your last paycheck.
  • Receiving notice or severance pay if required by your employment contract.
  • Being reported as terminated to make you eligible for unemployment compensation. 
  • Retaining your health insurance coverage if your employer has 20 or more employees.

These legal requirements are intended to make losing your job less devastating. While they don’t make up for wrongful termination, they provide more stability as you determine your options.

Right to Sue

If you have been wrongfully terminated, you likely have the right to file a claim against them. This could be a claim filed with the Labor Commissioner, or it could be a lawsuit. In some cases, you may begin by filing a complaint, then proceed to sue your employer. Either way, you can talk to a California employment law attorney to discuss your best course of action. 

Right to Reinstatement, Backpay, and Damages

A claim or lawsuit aims to correct the injustice you’ve suffered. While the court can’t go back in time and prevent you from losing your job, it can award you damages for the losses you’ve suffered. Potential damages include:

  • Reinstatement to your old job or a position that is substantially similar
  • Backpay for the time you did not have a job 
  • Compensation for the benefits you lost when you were fired, such as health insurance and 401(k) contributions
  • Compensation for your pain and suffering, including a damaged reputation and emotional distress
  • Attorneys’ fees to cover the cost of fighting for your rights
  • Punitive damages if your dismissal was particularly egregious

These damages aren’t guaranteed. However, if the court agrees that you were wrongfully terminated, the damages awarded can go a long way to helping you get back on your feet after losing your job.

Discuss Your Termination With Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP

If you were fired because you needed medical leave, it might be an example of retaliation. If so, you can hold your employer accountable for violating your rights. The first step is to talk to the experienced employment law attorneys at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP to determine whether you have a strong case. Our team is dedicated to advocating for California workers who have suffered wrongful termination, retaliation, and other rights violations by their employers. Learn more about how we can help you by scheduling your consultation today.

Layoffs have been on the news recently, especially in the California Bay Area. Major tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Salesforce have cut tens of thousands of jobs since the beginning of January, primarily consisting of Silicon Valley workers. 

While major layoffs appear to be mostly centered within the tech industry for the moment, these trends have a way of spreading. Even if you don’t work in tech, you could still be at risk of being named “redundant” if your employer downsizes. It’s more important than ever to understand your rights regarding layoffs so you can stand up for yourself if you are unfairly terminated. 

The Ongoing Trend of California Tech Layoffs

Despite record profits posted throughout the tech field, many employers are announcing layoffs. Why? Companies that provide reasons for these massive cuts point toward ongoing inflation and rumors of an oncoming recession to justify their decisions. These businesses claim they are preemptively cutting costs to make it through the presumed lean times to come. 

Analysts suggest that most of these layoffs aren’t occurring because companies need the money, though. Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that these layoffs are being done just because other companies are doing the same thing in “copycat” behavior. They know they can do it, that it hasn’t harmed their competitors, and will make their profits higher in the short term, so they are making cuts just because they can. 

Unfortunately, this behavior may bring about the very thing the companies profess to fear: a recession. Over the past year, as many as 120,000 people have been laid off, particularly in high-paying industries like technology. This is increasing competition for the remaining jobs, allowing employers to pay them less. Between lowering pay rates and many people simply no longer having their high-paying jobs, massive layoff trends significantly reduce the number of people with disposable income. 

This can slow the rest of the economy as people are forced to cut back to necessities rather than circulate funds into other businesses. Layoffs in one industry can cause a domino effect as other companies are forced to cut costs because their customers can no longer afford to purchase their goods or services. 

What You Should Know About WARN Laws

State and federal legislators understand the negative impacts of major layoffs. This is why California has implemented the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. This law provides strict rules regarding which employers must give notice to employees before performing layoffs and when that notice must be given. 

California’s WARN Act is stricter than its federal equivalent, granting workers in the state greater protections. It applies to businesses with at least 75 full- or part-time employees who have worked at the company for at least six out of the last twelve months. It also applies to all state and state-sponsored organizations, regardless of the number of workers. Covered organizations must provide employees with 60 calendar days’ written notice before performing the following:

  • Terminating at least 50 employees over 30 days, no matter how many employees the company has
  • Closing any plant or location, regardless of how many workers this affects
  • Requiring any employee to relocate by more than 100 miles

If an employer does not provide 60 days’ notice, they can offer severance packages equivalent to the number of working days the employees will not receive. For example, Google recently laid off 12,000 employees, effective immediately. However, the employees were guaranteed pay through the 60-day notice period. Because they will still receive the compensation they would have earned during those two months, the workers’ right to notice was not violated. 

Note that these notice requirements don’t apply to seasonal workers or employees who are explicitly hired temporarily. In addition, organizations are not penalized for failing to provide notice if they must close a location due to a natural disaster or sudden, unexpected loss of business. Outside of these exceptions, failing to provide appropriate notice to employees is a WARN Act violation. 

Your Rights During California Layoffs

Understanding your rights during California layoffs is invaluable. The WARN Act was enacted to give you time to find a new job and avoid unnecessary time spent unemployed. If your employer doesn’t provide you fair notice, you have the right to take legal action. 

California law allows workers to pursue back pay for every day of notice they do not receive. For example, if a company notifies workers only 20 days before termination, the laid-off employees could demand back pay for their normal schedule during the remaining 40 days. 

Furthermore, employers must perform layoffs equitably. They must choose which workers to terminate based on business-related concerns like performance rather than age, gender, race, or other protected classes. WARN notices allow employees to spot if their employer is committing wrongful termination during layoffs.

If they do selectively terminate people from protected classes, that’s when a layoff becomes wrongful termination. For instance, Twitter is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly firing women at a significantly greater rate than men in the November cuts. In these cases, you may also pursue a wrongful termination claim for additional damages, such as the money you might have earned based on your performance if the company had laid off people fairly.

Experienced Legal Representation for Victims of California Tech Layoffs

The layoffs occurring throughout the California tech industry are alarming and harmful to many workers. Still, if you are laid off without appropriate notice, you may have grounds to take legal action. At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, we specialize in helping workers stand up for their rights. We can help you determine if you were unfairly laid off or wrongfully terminated by your employer. If so, we will help you pursue justice and fair compensation for your losses. Learn more by scheduling your consultation today.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Rss Feed