Being fired from your job can be a traumatic and stressful experience, especially if you believe the termination was unfair or illegal. Although employment in most states is considered ‘at-will,’ meaning you can be fired at any time without cause, there are exceptions that protect employees from wrongful termination.
If you lost your job in a manner that you believe violated the law or your employer’s policies, a wrongful termination lawyer can advocate for you in seeking justice. Here is an overview of how an employment attorney can help you fight back against an unjust firing.
Proving Wrongful Termination
While you may feel your termination was blatantly unfair, proving it legally can be difficult without experienced legal help. A qualified wrongful termination lawyer has the expertise to determine if your case meets the criteria under federal, state, or local laws that offer exceptions to at-will employment.
Some of the most common grounds for wrongful termination claims include:
- Violation of anti-discrimination laws related to protected characteristics like race, gender, religion, disability, or age
- Retaliation for whistleblowing, reporting unlawful activity, taking medical leave or other protected actions
- Breach of employment contract or company policies
- Constructive discharge, where intolerable working conditions forced a resignation
In the U.S. if you live in a state like California, wrongful termination can present significant challenges for employees. California’s at-will employment status often makes it difficult to prove wrongful termination. Nevertheless, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles can navigate these complexities effectively.
They possess a deep understanding of the legal standards required to establish wrongful termination and can analyze the facts to build the strongest argument on your behalf.
By leveraging their expertise, they can overcome hurdles such as proving discriminatory or retaliatory motives behind the termination. A wrongful termination lawyer in Los Angeles can craft a compelling case tailored to California’s employment laws, increasing your chances of obtaining justice and appropriate compensation.
Navigating the Complaint Process
In addition to deciding if you have a wrongful termination claim, an employment lawyer can represent you through the required steps to seek damages or get your job back.
The first step typically involves filing an administrative charge or complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a comparable state agency. Strict time limits apply for filing after termination, usually ranging from 180 to 300 days, underscoring the importance of legal expertise in meeting deadlines. Missing the deadline could completely bar you from pursuing your claim.
Both federal and state claims require completion of the administrative complaint process before the case can proceed to court. An attorney can handle communicating with the investigative agency on your behalf to push the claim forward and determine the next best steps.
The agency will investigate the allegations, which may involve requesting information and documentation from both you and the employer. Your attorney can assist you in cooperating with the investigation and putting the strongest evidence forward to prove your claims. If the employer responds with different information, your lawyer can help rebut those assertions.
Once the investigation is complete, the agency will make a determination. If they find no violation, they will close the case and issue a “right to sue” letter allowing you to file a claim in court. If the agency believes discrimination or wrongdoing occurred, they have the authority to bring an enforcement action against the company seeking remedies on your behalf. They could pursue settlement agreements or hold a hearing to award damages.
Having a skilled employment lawyer to represent you through the administrative process is invaluable. They know how to compellingly present facts and legal arguments to maximize the chances of a successful outcome, whether that involves settlement, hearing rewards, or a “right to sue” to pursue litigation. Their expertise in navigating agency procedures helps avoid missteps that could undermine your case.
Seeking Compensation in Court
If the administrative complaint fails to resolve your wrongful termination claim and/or you seek additional civil damages, an employment attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf in state or federal court. The tasks involved in litigation include:
- Analyzing your case facts to determine the strongest legal claims for inclusion in the complaint. This may involve additional federal, state, or local laws beyond what was asserted in the agency charge.
- Drafting and filing the civil complaint laying out the factual allegations and legal counts. The lawyer will make sure the complaint meets all procedural rules and deadlines of the court.
- Serving the complaint on your former employer through proper channels to officially initiate the lawsuit.
- Develop a discovery plan to uncover key evidence from your employer and witnesses. Your lawyer will submit document requests, interrogatories, requests for admission and take depositions.
- Managing deadlines, court procedures, and legal filings throughout the case. They will respond to any motions filed by the employer seeking dismissal or summary judgment.
- Hiring expert witnesses as needed to prove things like lost earnings, emotional distress, or industry standards. Experts can provide invaluable third-party testimony to strengthen your claims.
- Preparing you and other witnesses to give clear, compelling testimony in depositions and at trial.
- Estimating the potential value of the case based on the evidence and nature of your claims. Your lawyer will discuss with you reasonable settlement ranges and negotiate with the employer.
- Representing you vigorously through pre-trial conferences, motions hearings, and eventually a jury trial. They will zealously argue your case before the judge or jury.
Your employment attorney handles the burden of these complex tasks, enabling you to focus on your own process of healing and moving forward. Their litigation skills and experience level the playing field against a powerful employer. With a determined lawyer advocating for you, the likelihood of justice being served significantly increases.
Recovering Lost Wages
The financial harm caused by losing your income is often the most pressing concern after termination. A skilled employment lawyer knows how to maximize the compensatory damages you may recover through legal action.
In addition to getting your job back through reinstatement, you may be awarded back pay equal to what you would have earned had you not been fired. If reinstatement is not feasible, front pay provides future earnings for a set period. Other economic damages can include the cost of medical benefits, bonuses and stock options.
Your lawyer will retain experts to accurately calculate these wage losses. They will also seek emotional distress and punitive damages plus attorney’s fees in applicable cases, which further enhances the potential value.
Finding Justice, Moving Forward
With so much at stake, having a tenacious wrongful termination attorney fighting for your rights can be invaluable. They have the legal acumen and resolve to stand up to employers and seek fair treatment. With an attorney’s counsel, you can make wise decisions in challenging unjust termination through administrative remedies and litigation.
Although the process takes time and effort, justice and closure provide immense value. A lawyer dedicated to your cause can help overcome wrongful firing and regain what you lost – not just wages but dignity, self-esteem and peace of mind.
Being terminated unfairly can wreak havoc financially, professionally and emotionally. If you were fired illegally or unethically, consulting a wrongful termination lawyer should be your first priority. An experienced employment attorney has the practical knowledge and determination to build a strong case proving your firing was unjust.
Whether settling through agency processes or litigating in court, their advocacy can help you recover lost income, restore your reputation and move forward in your career. With an unwavering ally by your side, you can fight workplace injustice and hold employers accountable.