Filing For a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
If you recently lost your job for unfair reasons, you might have a wrongful termination case against your former employer. A free consultation with a wrongful termination lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys will give you the information you need to determine whether you have a case. This guide will prepare you for the types of situations that constitute wrongful termination, the things you can learn at a free lawyer consultation for wrongful termination, and how to win a wrongful termination case if you decide to take legal action.
Wrongful Termination Scenarios
A wide variety of job terminations can be wrongful. If you were let go for any of the following reasons, you need to schedule a free lawyer consultation for wrongful termination:
- A violation of an employment agreement
- Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, and disability
- Attempting to unionize
- Refusing orders that are clearly a violation of labor laws
- Refusal of sexual propositions and other reasons related to sexual harassment
- Retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against your employer
Attending a Free Lawyer Consultation for Wrongful Termination
Consulting with an experienced wrongful termination attorney can provide you with the information you need to decide the best path forward for your situation. A free consultation is an opportunity for you to ask questions about your case and for your potential lawyer to learn about your situation and guide you on your next steps. Information provided at a free lawyer consultation for wrongful termination typically includes the following items.
If the attorney with whom you speak doesn’t offer this information, feel free to ask.
- Your legal team. You should find out if the attorney with whom you speak will be exclusively working on your case, or will others be helping. Who makes up the team—junior associates, paralegals, interns?
- Availability. At a free lawyer consultation for wrongful termination, your potential attorney can let you know his or her availability via phone or email to promptly respond to any questions you have.
- Updates. It takes time to investigate the events that led to your termination and gather relevant evidence to build a strong case. Your attorney cannot guarantee a specific timeline, but you should have information about how often you can expect an update on your case.
- Case examples. No two cases are exactly the same. The parties involved and the circumstances which led to your termination or forced resignation will be different than another person. Yet, it’s likely the lawyer you speak with has handled previous wrongful termination cases. Get an idea of what can happen by asking for some examples of past cases that are similar to yours, and their outcomes.
- Experience. You want a wrongful termination attorney who has experience, so you want to know how many clients he or she has advocated for in wrongful termination suits and the associated track record for settlement and litigation.
- Strategies. Different wrongful termination scenarios require different strategies to win the case. Your potential attorney should discuss possible strategies for your case and the risks and benefits of each option.
- Challenges. Although some cases are easy wins, it’s more likely you will have at least one obstacle or challenge with your case. Ask your potential attorney about any problems he or she sees with your case and plans for overcoming those challenges.
After attending a free lawyer consultation for wrongful termination, you will have the information you need to take the next steps. Wrongful termination attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay for their services upfront. Instead, they collect attorney fees from any compensation they secure for their clients. If the lawyer you spoke with feels you have a case and you choose them to represent you, you need to take the appropriate actions to help win your wrongful termination case.
Tips for Prevailing in Your Wrongful Termination Case
California is an at-will employment state, making it difficult to prove wrongful termination. In at-will states, employers and employees can terminate employment at any time and for any reason. This means that under California law, your employer can discharge you without warning, without a hearing, and without any reason. Yet, some exceptions exist, so employees who are wrongfully terminated can still fight. Once you’ve hired an experienced wrongful termination attorney, he or she will advise you on the evidence and other crucial things to help you win your case. The ultimate goal is to prove the company is lying about the reason they fired you. Important documentation that can reveal this kind of information includes:
Employment application. Your employment application is the first piece of evidence that contributes to documenting your employment status with your former employer. It establishes the position for which you applied and the information you provided about your work history and personal history. Your lawyer can also review the types of questions on the application to ensure your employer complies with federal and state law.
Company handbook/employee manual. If you received a company handbook or employee manual when you started with the company who terminated you, you need to share it with your attorney. These documents typically spell out rules and expectations. If your employer terminated you for not following the employee manual, your attorney can possibly challenge their reasoning depending on the language in the manual. Additionally, your attorney will evaluate whether your employer followed their own stated policies in relation to the misconduct you reported. For example, if you reported sexual harassment, and you suspect your termination was retaliation, did your employer follow their own policies to investigate your complaint?
Job contract. A job contract is of the utmost importance for winning a wrongful termination case in California because it is an at-will state. Your contract can contain provisions beyond the length of the contract and your salary. In some cases, job contracts include an agreement with company policies in employee manuals, agreement with your job description and accepted duties, and a variety of other things that can support your wrongful termination case.
Job description. One possible reason your employer might give for your termination is that you refused to do something that was part of your job description. Your job description is likely part of your employment contract, so you need to also share this with your attorney. Your job description alone will not win your wrongful termination case, but it can be a tool for your attorney to strengthen your case.
Pre-employment screening documents. Not all employers require pre-employment screening; however, if you have these documents, they might be helpful in your case depending on the reason the company gave for termination. Consider this example. A worker hurts his back on the job and files a worker’s compensation claim. The employer is angry, so he finds some reason to fire the worker. The employer also claims the injury did not occur on the job. Yet, pre-employment medical screening revealed no back injuries and cleared the worker for activity. In this example, copies of these documents can help prove that the worker did, in fact, suffer an injury during the time he was employed.
Résumé. An employee’s work history can speak volumes to support a wrongful termination case, especially those related to sexual harassment. Under California law and federal law, quid pro quo harassment occurs when supervisory or managerial employee propositions a subordinate and promises them employment benefits for acceptance. If a harassment victim receives a promotion that isn’t in line with his or her experience, it suggests special treatment. The same applies when special treatment creates a hostile work environment for other employees.
Payroll records. Your payroll records show your salary while you were employed. This also includes any decreases or increases, which can indicate demotions or promotions. Much like your resume, your payroll records can help support a case for wrongful termination when it is retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against your employer for sexual harassment or some other state or federal violation.
Witnesses and other victims. One of the biggest challenges an attorney can have with a wrongful termination case is proving your employer knew about your protected activity before they fired you. For example, if you filed a complaint with upper management or human resources because your supervisor sexually harassed you, your attorney must show that you were terminated after your employer learned about you filing the complaint.
One of the best ways to prove your employer acted unlawfully is through witness statements from other employees or supervisors. This isn’t always easy, especially if you are trying to protect your identity. Yet, this is where an experienced wrongful termination attorney is valuable.
Other employees can help you in three distinct ways:
- Providing a statement, and testimony if necessary, that they witnessed wrongdoing by the employer
- Providing a statement, and testimony if necessary, that they have witnessed others suffer the same fate as you
- Providing a statement, and testimony if necessary, that others committed the same “errors or missteps” for which you were terminated, but they were not terminated
If you know of other former employees who were wrongfully terminated by your employer, it can be helpful for your case if they tell their story too.
Attendance records. Your attendance records provide evidence that you upheld your contract with your employer. Missing chunks of work can also be an indication of emotional distress because of harassment, discrimination, or other poor treatment in the workplace. Finally, attendance records help to cement your employment status with the company.
Performance evaluations. A common reason employers use to terminate employees is poor performance. You’ve heard the stories of companies who look for an employee to do something wrong so they can fire him or her. That is a textbook example of wrongful termination. You need to provide your attorney with any copies you have from past performance evaluations, so he or she can ensure your records match the company records. It’s difficult for your employer to say you were terminated for performing poorly when you have performance evaluations that show a far different picture.
Documentation of termination. It’s likely obvious to you, but you need to provide detailed records and an explanation of your termination. Much like a journalist, you need to keep track of the who, what, when, where, and why:
- Who fired you? Who was in the room? What were their names, titles, and roles within the organization?
- What prompted the termination? What were the events that led up to getting fired or your forced termination?
- When were you fired? What were the time and date? Were you fired after a big company event? Did the time and date of your termination have any special significance in relation to other things going on within the company?
- Where were you fired? Was it a formal meeting, a lunch, at your desk? witnessed by colleagues?
- Why were you fired? What reason(s) was given for your termination? Why do you believe you were fired?
An Experienced Wrongful Termination Attorney Can Help You With Your Case
Losing your job can be an embarrassing, traumatic, and anxiety-inducing event. If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated or forced to resign, our skilled wrongful termination lawyers can help you through this difficult time. The federal laws and state laws that inform wrongful termination cases are complex and multi-faceted, making them difficult for someone who is inexperienced to interpret. A qualified lawyer has the knowledge and skills to apply the law to your case in the best way, giving you the best chance for a positive outcome.
Additionally, wrongful termination attorneys are trained negotiators who can help you get a higher settlement and advocate for you in the courtroom if necessary. Finally, and most importantly, experienced wrongful termination lawyers know how to investigate these kinds of cases, how to handle the finer details, and they know the tricks companies play to avoid liability for wrongful termination.