Being fired can be frustrating, stressful, and frightening, especially if you feel you did everything you could to do your job well. Unfortunately, your employer has the right to terminate you for various reasons in California, even if you were a good employee. However, if you think your termination was motivated by unlawful discrimination, then you might have a wrongful termination case and be entitled to recover significant compensation.
If you’re considering filing a wrongful termination lawsuit based on discrimination, contact Pimentel Law right away. Our leading California employment discrimination law attorneys have the skills and resources to help protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. We focus on helping victims of discrimination and wrongful termination get the justice and compensation they’re owed, and we can do the same for you.
Discrimination Laws in California
Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, workplace harassment and discrimination are illegal. In California, this discrimination law means that employers cannot make employment decisions based on certain protected characteristics or retaliate against an employee because they complain about discrimination or harassment, aid in a related investigation, or oppose these actions.
What Is a Protected Class?
Under federal law, it’s illegal to discriminate against employees based on certain personal characteristics, called “protected classes.” Discrimination laws in California expand the characteristics that are considered protected. In our state, it’s illegal for companies with five or more employees to discriminate against someone based on characteristics, such as:
- Gender identity and expression
- Sex (including pregnancy and related medical conditions)
- Age for people 40 or older
- Political affiliations or activities
- Marital status
- Military or veteran status
- Physical or mental disability
- Sexual orientation
Termination and Discrimination
California employment is “at-will,” which means employers can typically fire employees at any time and for any lawful reason. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially in the case of discrimination. Thanks to discrimination laws in California, an employee might be eligible to file a wrongful termination lawsuit if they are fired for a reason that is not clearly defensible and might be discriminatory, such as:
- Firing an employee after they complained about sexual harassment in the workplace
- Termination despite excellent reviews and replacement by someone of a different race
- Employees of a particular protected class, such as those with a disability or employees over 40, are never allowed to take specific positions at the company like management or customer-facing roles
- Termination soon after the employee returns from paternity or maternity leave
Steps to Take if You’ve Been Terminated
If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated or that your employer has violated any discrimination laws in California, steps you can take to protect your rights include:
- Get a lawyer. Contact an experienced California employment discrimination law attorney immediately. They can listen to your story, help determine if you might have a valid discrimination or wrongful termination claim and act quickly to help protect your legal rights.
- Document everything. Many claims are a battle of words, so it’s important to write down everything you experienced before you forget it. Details to write down might include the discriminatory things your employer said, did, or allowed before or during your firing; names and contact info of anyone else that witnessed the discrimination; or praise you received shortly before you were terminated.
- If possible, gather any physical evidence that might help you prove discrimination or unlawful firing, copies of your performance reviews, email exchanges, your termination letter or things your employer posts on social media.
- Watch your words. After someone is fired, it might be tempting to lash out against their former employer and say negative things about them. However, this can come back to bite you. If you decide to make a discrimination or wrongful termination claim against your employer, they might try to use anything you say or do after your termination to dispute your claim.
How Do I Bring a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in California?
To begin a wrongful termination or employment discrimination lawsuit in California, you typically must file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The complaint should include information on yourself, your former employer, and the reasons you think your firing violated discrimination laws in California. If you are working with a lawyer, they will file this form on your behalf.
If the DFEH thinks you might have a valid claim, then they will contact you to ask further questions about your termination and request that you send them copies of any evidence you have of wrongful termination. They will then send your complaint to your former employer, who will have 30 days to respond.
At this point, the DFEH might do a further investigation or ask you and your former employer to participate in a voluntary mediation. You can either skip the mediation and ask DFEH for a “right to sue” or you can try the mediation route. However, if you are unable to reach a solution in mediation, then DFEH will submit your complaint to the court and you can begin the lawsuit process.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
Discrimination laws in California dictate that you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit, which is called the “statute of limitations.” Unfortunately, California’s statute of limitations for wrongful termination lawsuits are incredibly confusing because they depend on the type of wrongful termination suit that you’re filing.
For example, if you’re filing a suit because of a violation of public policy, then you only have two years to sue. However, if you’re suing because of a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, then you have three years to file a complaint. A knowledgeable California employment discrimination law attorney can help determine which type of suit makes the most sense for your case.
What Damages Could I Recover?
According to discrimination laws in California, damages someone can recover in a wrongful termination suit depend on what type of suit they file. However, in general, damages usually include compensation for things like lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, and legal fees.
How Pimentel Law Can Help
Pimentel Law is here to help you stand up for your rights if you were wrongfully terminated. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable California employment discrimination law attorneys, call us at (877) 265-8084 or reach out to us online right away.