What to Do When You Get Fired Unfairly

Getting dismissed or wrongfully terminated from your job can produce a substantial financial strain on your life. However, if you believe that the reason you were fired was not legal, you may be entitled to compensation.

California law allows workers who were fired for illegal or unlawful reasons to file a complaint about wrongful termination. Upon succeeding in a wrongful termination suit, you may be able to recover the compensation that relieves some of the financial strain of losing your job. You may even be entitled to reinstatement in your old job.

Although, you must act quickly. For most claims in California, you need to file a lawsuit or administrative complaint with a regulatory agency within a limited time period. Depending on the specifics of your case, this may be between 6 months to 3 years of your termination, at the latest.

Below, we will discuss five steps to take if you are wrongfully terminated from your job to preserve any legal claims you may have against your former employer.

If you believe you were fired or discriminated against for this reason, contact the New York State Department of Labor at (800) 662-1220 or http://www.labor.ny.gov. “Whistleblowing,” in very narrow circumstances.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination is defined as the act of firing or laying off an employee for an illegal reason. While an employee may be fired, the classification of “wrongful” must be justified by the breach of a protected class.

Federal law protects employees from being fired:

  • For asserting their legally protected rights in the workplace,
  • Because of unlawful discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, disability, or any other legally protected characteristic,
  • For reporting sexual harassment or a toxic or hostile work environment,
  • In violation of an existing employment agreement,
  • As a form of retaliation for filing a workplace complaint with HR,
  • In violation of any collective bargaining or union agreements or laws, or
  • In violation of any applicable local, state, or federal laws.
  • The impact of wrongful termination on the lives of employees is hard to overstate. Illegally fired employees can suffer from depression, anxiety, financial stress, and career setbacks. If your employer fired you in bad faith, they may lie about your work performance and try to blame their decision on your work output. This could affect your professional reputation and your ability to find future work in your field, especially if your employer is a big industry player.

    If you’ve been wrongfully terminated from a company, you may not be the only one. This is especially true if a business suffers from a toxic work environment, where bad behavior is not only tolerated but even encouraged as a part of company culture.

    Many workers are intimidated by the thought of challenging their employers in a court of law, especially large corporations with deep pockets and lawyers on staff. Some employees may not even realize how much the law actually protects them. Employers that act in bad faith bet on their workers not realizing the power of their rights. But the law is on your side – and you can level the playing field by hiring an experienced employment lawyer for your case.

    How Do You Prove Wrongful Termination?

    Wrongful termination cases are fact-specific. The outcome depends on the unique details of your case. The best way to prove your case is to gather as much evidence as you can.

    Evidence of wrongful termination may include:

  • Emails, instant messages, written statements, documents, or other communications
  • A history of performance reports showing that you were a good employee
  • Witness testimony backing up any verbal statements that may have been made
  • Records of any reports you filed with your manager, HR, or the government
  • Circumstantial evidence that demonstrates a company’s patterns, biases, or culture
  • Proof that your company refused to follow their own employee protection policies
  • Gathering all of that evidence can be tricky, especially if you’ve been removed from your job along with your access to company documents. You may no longer have the ability to log in to your company email address. If your employer has been acting in bad faith, they’re not likely to cooperate with your requests to get the evidence you need to sue them.

    An employment lawyer can help you get a court to subpoena the relevant documents you need from your company, even if they refuse to disclose the information voluntarily.

    Be sure to document everything that was promised to you during the job interview

    What did your employer promise you upon being hired? Be sure to document everything that was said during the job interview. Also, keep track of the day, time, and place your employer made these promises.

    Were there other people in the room with you during this time? Make sure their names are also recorded. This will bolster your case in the event you are unlawfully fired, and the company argues they never made any such promises to you.

    Suppose, during the interview, the company president tells you — in all seriousness — “Don’t worry. We never fire anyone around here except for a good reason.” The president or another interviewer may then tell you, once you start working here, you will have “permanent employment” or “a job for life.”

    If you are unjustly fired and are able to recall what was said, who said it, and how it was said, you may have a legitimate case.

    Your employer might say you’re being fired because of allegedly poor performance. However, this can be disputed if you have enough evidence. This includes:

  • positive written performance reviews
  • letters of recommendation
  • memos
  • sales figures
  • You may have to check state law first, as some states don’t allow workers to make copies of documents from their personnel files.

    If you are due certain payments and/or benefits upon termination, be sure you receive those before leaving the premises. This means any unpaid commissions, salary, bonuses, or reimbursements.

    You worked hard to earn these benefits, and so there is no reason to leave them behind.

    Wrongful Termination Law Explained


    What to do if you feel like you were fired unfairly?

    In most cases, you’ll first need to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There might also be state or local requirements regarding filing a complaint. Meeting with an employment attorney is a good place to begin if you have a reason to believe you were wrongfully terminated.

    What are examples of unlawful termination?

    Most Common Wrongful Termination Examples in California
    • The employee was fired for being a whistleblower.
    • The employee was fired in violation of a contract.
    • The firing violated public policy.
    • An employee was terminated for using time off under the California employee.

    What should you not do when fired?

    10 Things Not to Say or Do If You’re Fired
    1. Don’t Storm off Without Saving Important Documents. …
    2. Don’t Discuss Severance Without Taking Some Time to Process. …
    3. Don’t Refuse to Help With the Transition. …
    4. Don’t Dismiss the Chance to Resign. …
    5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For a Recommendation. …
    6. Don’t Disparage Your Supervisor or Co-Workers.

    Does an employer have to tell you why you were fired?

    What is the law in California? Under California’s employment law, there is no legal requirement for the employer to explain the discharge to a fired employee. California state law is one of the many where at-will employment is presumed. This means that employers to fire workers for any legal reason they want.

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