Like most states, California is an at-will employment state. At-will means that an employer can fire an employee at any time for a good or bad cause, even no cause at all. Employees feel like their employer holds all the power. However, there are circumstances where it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee. When this happens, an employee may be able to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. However, there are strict time limits at play. If you don’t most fast, your opportunity to hold your former employer accountable may pass you by.
What is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination can happen when an employee is fired for an illegal reason. State and federal laws protect employees from being fired for things like discrimination or retaliation. Generally, an illegal firing can take place under the following circumstances:
- Discrimination- The Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from firing an employee based on discrimination. California also protects individuals from being let go based on discriminatory practices. An employee cannot be fired because of their sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.
- Breach of Contract- Employees with an employment contract in place may also be protected from being fired. In some cases, firing an individual could violate that person’s employment contract. Being in breach of that contract could open up the employer to legal liability.
- Family or Medical Leave– The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to handle the birth or adoption of a child, a serious health condition, or to manage the health condition of a spouse, parent, or child. The employer must reinstate the employee to their position or an equivalent position. Firing an employee for using FMLA is prohibited.
- Retaliation– Federal and state laws also prohibit employers from firing or punishing employees who participate in legally protected activities. These activities include filing complaints about harassment or discrimination at work, resisting sexual advances, or filing complaints about unsafe conditions in the workplace.
- Whistleblower Protections– The Whistleblower Protection Act is a federal law that protects employees who report workplace violations or unlawful acts in the workplace.
California Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Termination Claims
There are numerous laws on the books governing the different types of wrongful termination. That means there may be different deadlines for filing a lawsuit depending on the type of case you have. It is always best to consult with an experienced California employment attorney as soon as possible so that you can review your legal options and determine how much time you have to file a suit.
Generally, for breach of contract terminations, wrongful termination, and retaliation claims, a suit must be filed within two years of the date of firing. Employees fired for whistleblowing typically have three years to file a lawsuit.
Losing your job can be both frightening and frustrating. Being out of work can put a serious strain on your finances, meaning you may not feel comfortable hiring an attorney right away. However, waiting can be one of the worst things that you can do. Once the statute of limitations expires on a claim, former employees may have very few other options available to them for holding the employer responsible and recovering valuable compensation.
Contact a California Wrongful Termination Lawyer
If you believe that you have been the victim of wrongful termination, contact the experienced Riverside employment attorneys at Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP. We want to protect your rights and help you seek meaningful compensation.
For a confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today. Don’t wait to get the protection you deserve.