Employment is generally considered to be ‘at-will’ in California. Under state law (CA Labor Code § 2922), an employer-employee relationship without a pre-defined term may be ended by either party. In effect, this means that companies and organizations have considerable discretion to make their own hiring and firing decisions.
Nonetheless, an employer may face a wrongful termination lawsuit from an employee who alleges that they were fired for an illegal reason. Companies need to know how to effectively respond to these types of legal claims. Below, our Riverside wrongful termination lawyers offer four practical tips for employers facing legal action in California.
How Employers Should Respond to a Wrongful Termination Suit in California
- Stay Calm, Carefully Review the Allegations, and Respond Professionally
For employers, it can be stressful and frustrating to learn that a former employee is alleging wrongful termination. These claims must be taken seriously. Employers should always stay calm, carefully review the allegations, and remain strictly professional in any correspondence with the former employee.
To defend a wrongful termination lawsuit, you need to know exactly what the employee is alleging. As an example, an employee may contend that their removal constitutes unlawful discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If so, employers should understand the basis for that claim and review their duties under the relevant law.
- Document Everything—Gather All of the Records You Have
One of the most important things an employer can do in responding to a wrongful termination claim is to organize all documents and records. Ideally, the termination will be well-documented. A properly documented removal of a worker can spare an employer many headaches down the road. The more comprehensive the documentation that you have supporting the firing, the easier it will be to defend a wrongful termination claim. As an example, a company may rely on past performance appraisals of the worker.
- Refer Back to Your Policies and Procedures
Employee handbooks and other written policies and procedures can help establish the legality of a termination. Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strongly recommends that employers small and large create consistent policies and procedures. If your California company is facing a wrongful termination lawsuit, you should refer back to your policies and procedures to prove the firing/discharge/lay-off was lawful. Consistent application of workplace policies will help to spare an employer from liability.
- Consult With a California Wrongful Termination Defense Lawyer
Wrongful termination lawsuits are highly fact-intensive legal cases. The approach that works in one case may not be applicable in your case. Personalized representation is a must. Businesses and organizations facing a claim can benefit from working with an experienced California wrongful termination lawyer.
An attorney will be able to review the information you have and help you craft a legal strategy designed to obtain the best possible outcome. Some wrongful termination lawsuits are entirely baseless and an aggressive defense may be appropriate. Other wrongful termination lawsuits are more complicated and it may be more efficient and cost effective to work towards a settlement.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With Our Riverside Wrongful Termination Attorney
At Wagner Zemming Christensen LLP, our California wrongful termination lawyers provide top-quality, personalized representation to businesses and organizations. If you have questions about responding to a wrongful termination lawsuit, we are available to offer guidance and support. To request a free, comprehensive case evaluation, please contact our firm today. With a legal office in Riverside, we represent employers throughout the Inland Empire, including in Ontario, Pomona, San Bernardino, Redlands, Corona, and Moreno Valley.