Category: Wrongful Termination

Wrongful Termination Settlements: What You Need to Know

Wrongful Termination Settlement

Employees who have been illegally or wrongfully fired from their jobs may be able to get recover compensatory damages including but not limited to their back wages. They may even be able to get their job back by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer. Such a lawsuit typically alleges that an employee was fired or let go in violation of the law or an employment agreement. Wrongful termination claims can be challenging to prove. For this reason, many of these claims are resolved or settled out of court. The value of a wrongful termination settlement depends on a number of factors and could vary from case to case.

Most Wrongful Termination Cases Are Settled

It is a fact that a vast majority of wrongful termination cases don’t actually get to the courtroom. Most of these cases are settled before they go before a jury. Often, such a settlement is viewed as the ideal form of resolution in wrongful termination cases considering the potential nature of civil trials, which could be lengthy and unpredictable.

When it comes to the employee who has been fired, one of the main challenges is to convincingly demonstrate that the worker was terminated for illegal reasons such as his or her gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or because he or she was fired as retaliation for whistleblowing.

Employers often use the argument that they had valid reasons to terminate the employee such as poor performance or misconduct. It is important to note, however, that in some cases, employers have a reason to enter into a settlement because potentially damaging information about their company could come out as the wrongful termination case progresses.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination is illegal termination of an employee. For wrongful termination to have occurred, an employer must have discharged an employee in a manner that violates contractual terms. For example, if an employee’s contract clearly states that he or she cannot be terminated for not coming to work on time, but ends up being fired for that reason, the termination could be wrongful. Here are some of the most common scenarios that result in a wrongful termination claim:

  • The employee “blew the whistle” on his or her employer. This means the employee reported the employer for illegal practices such as workplace discrimination, harassment or for safety violations in the workplace.
  • The decision to terminate employment was discriminatory, which means it was based on an employee’s race, gender, age, disability or religion.
  • The employee was fired for exercising his or her legal rights in the workplace such as taking medical leave, maternity leave or serving time in the military.

What is the Value of a Wrongful Termination Claim?

The monetary value of a wrongful termination claim is based on a number of factors. Here are some of the most common factors that determine the value or worth of a wrongful termination claim.

Lost wages: As part of a wrongful termination claim, the employee can seek as damages the amount of wages lost from the date of termination until the present. A plaintiff in such cases has a duty to mitigate these damages by, for example, finding other employment. Any interim benefits such as unemployment benefits or income from a new job are deducted from the past wage total. In some cases, you may also be able to seek future wage loss, especially if you haven’t been able to find a new job.

Lost benefits: When calculating lost earnings, it is important to take into account, the amount of benefits lost. For example, if a fired employee is forced to pay health insurance premiums, the employer may be held liable for these expenses. Other types of benefits lost might include childcare, loss of stock options, etc.

Emotional distress: When an employee is laid off or terminated from a job, he or she not only suffers financial consequences, but also emotional trauma. Individuals tend to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues as a result of their termination, and they can seek compensation for such emotional distress. Recovering compensation for emotional distress is much more likely in cases where the alleged actions by the employer were particularly egregious, most commonly in harassment and discrimination claims.

Punitive damages: These are damages an employer is ordered to pay for actions that are particularly outrageous. Unlike compensatory damages that are intended to reimburse plaintiffs for the losses they have suffered, punitive damages are intended to punish the employer and deter similar behavior in the future by others. Plaintiffs may have to satisfy a greater burden of proof in order to secure punitive damages. Often, the jury determines the amount of punitive damages.

Attorneys’ fees: In some cases, you may also be entitled to include attorneys’ fees. In most wrongful termination cases, your attorney will take the case on a contingency fee basis, which means your lawyer will be paid a percentage of your wrongful termination settlement.

Justice and Accountability

In addition to the money that you win as part of the wrongful termination settlement, you may also be able to get some sense of justice and vindication. Workers who have been fired due to harassment, discrimination or retaliation may see a successful settlement as providing validation and closure. As part of the settlement, some plaintiffs may also pursue changes in company policy so similar wrongs are prevented in the future.

Under California law, wrongful termination claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. This clock begins to tick at the time of the actual termination, not the time that employee gets notice of the termination. If you believe that you have a valid wrongful termination lawsuit, it would be in your best interest to pursue information right away and contact an experienced lawyer.

If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important that you reach out to an experienced Orange County employment lawyer who has successfully handled wrongful termination cases in the past. Valuable advice from an experienced employment lawyer can help you avoid costly mistakes and guide you through what can be a complex process. Call our law offices for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.

What Are the Wrongful Termination Laws in California?

Wrongful Termination Laws

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer-employee relationship is ended by an employer who violates an employee’s legal rights. According to California law, such a situation may arise when an employer breaches a state or federal law, general principles of public policy, the employee’s contract or some other element of the law. The state of California provides several protections for employees including stating the circumstances regarding how an employee may legally be terminated.

Who is an Employee?

In California, only an employee can file a claim or lawsuit against their employer for wrongful termination. This is because there must be an employer-employee relationship. A worker is considered an employee if he or she works under the direction, supervision, and control of an employer. There is a clear distinction between “employees” and “independent contractors.” While a contractor provides a specific product or service, the business has no right to control the means by which the contractor achieves that result.

The more control an employer exercises over the manner in which the worker performs their job and tasks related to the job, the more likely that worker is to be considered an employee by the courts. Workers who are not employees might have a claim against a business for breach of contract or a violation of some other law. Ending a business relationship in which no party is an employee would not meet the requirement to qualify as “termination.”

California is an At-Will State

Under California law, most employees are considered to work on an “At-Will” Basis. This means that the worker is free to quit his or her job at any time. Similarly, employers can terminate an employee any time for any lawful reason, or for no reason at all. This is the case unless there is a specific contractual relationship between the employer and employee that limits the employer’s ability to terminate the employee.

It is important to understand that your employer may decide to fire the employee for no good reason, even when the employee is doing a good job. This could happen even if the employee didn’t do anything wrong. While employers may not need a good reason to fire an at-will employee, they are prohibited from terminating their employees for unlawful reasons. Here are some examples of reasons for termination that may be illegal:

  • Firing an employee due to protected characteristics such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Terminating an employee due to political beliefs or affiliations.
  • Firing an employee because he or she requested time off to which they are legally entitled.
  • Terminating an employee because he or she reported a violation of the law by the employer.

In other words, employers can fire at-will employees for any reason that is lawful. However, they cannot terminate employees for these types of reasons that could be deemed unlawful.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment

There are also some exceptions to “at-will” employment. Some employees have contracts and this limits the employers’ ability to fire them. In such situations, employees might be able to claim that they were wrongfully terminated because their employer did not have a valid reason to fire them. For example, in cases where an employer agrees to hire an employee for a certain period of time, but does not specify the circumstances under which the employee can be terminated, the employee may only be fired if:

  • He or she breaches job duties.
  • The employee routinely neglects his or her duties.
  • He or she is not able to perform job duties for some reason.

A contract might be entered into verbally or in writing, and it is typically for a set period of time. A contract may also limit the employer’s ability to terminate the employee if it requires the employer to have a good reason for the termination. In addition, employees who are union members, for example, are not at-will workers. This is because unions negotiate an employment contract that allows only “for cause” terminations.

Laws that Prohibit Unlawful Discrimination?

One of the most common grounds for a wrongful termination claim arises when the employer has discriminatory intent in terminating the employee. In California, there are a number of laws that prohibit workplace discrimination. The California Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from discriminating based on age, race, color, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, sex and gender identity, sexual orientation or military and veteran status.

Under the law, the employer cannot target a worker for termination due to any protected characteristics. Employers cannot target an employee for harassment over protected characteristics or create a work environment in which being a member of a protected class puts the employee at a disadvantage or puts him or her at disadvantage. Similarly, an employer may not harass an employer for belonging to a protected class. The employer cannot create or maintain a hostile work environment that leaves the class member with no other option but to quit that job.

Here are some other laws that protect employees:

Immigration discrimination: All employees, regardless of their immigration status, are protected by California’s employment laws. While employers are prohibited from hiring undocumented workers, non-citizens are still protected against discrimination just as U.S. citizens are.

Language discrimination: Employers might commit wrongful termination if they fire employees for speaking a different language in the workplace. There are certain exceptions to the rule such as whether the language requirement is justified by a business necessity.

Political discrimination: California law also prohibits employers from controlling their employees’ political activities. So, for example, an employer cannot fire an employee for being a member of a political party or forbid him or her from going to political rallies.

Victims of crime: Those who have been victimized by a crime have a right to be free from workplace discrimination. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who need to appear in court as a witness in a crime of which he or she was a victim.

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully terminated from your employment, it is crucial to contact an experienced Orange County employment lawyer who will help you seek compensation for back pay, punitive damages, and compensation for emotional distress, hospitalization, and suffering. Call our lawyers for a free consultation.

Discrimination

Ways To Uncover And Prove Wrongful Termination

Being terminated from a job has to be one of the hardest things that can happen in a person’s career. It’s hard under any circumstances, but when an employee feels that they have been wrongfully terminated, it’s even worse. Unless blatant, wrongful termination is difficult to prove and requires the employee to document as much as possible and seek effective legal representation from experienced attorneys.

After termination, the first thing that should happen is a full and honest evaluation with the attorneys at Aegis Law Firm. A terminated employee will feel hurt, shocked, scared, and perhaps worst of all, inadequate. Let’s be honest. No one thinks they have been terminated for cause, even if they know they have. An employee’s first reaction is usually to get angry at the firm or boss who terminated them and look for blame. It is from this mindset that an employee may rush to a determination that it was a case of wrongful termination. This is why a thoughtful and thorough evaluation is important.

For the employee who feels strongly that they have been wrongfully terminated, the post job evaluation will involve a review of the issues faced during employment, and that employee will most likely have already started building a case through documentation. In many cases, wrongful termination begins long before the employee is let go. Employee may notice a change in attitude from a boss after making a complaint about an actual or perceived illegal activity. This type of wrongful termination is called retaliation and can be a case. Another type of wrongful termination is due to discrimination. One example of discrimination is if an employee is being pushed out due to their sex, race or sexual orientation. A strong signal of wrongful termination may be positive reviews up to the termination. For this reason keeping any performance reviews, emails, or other correspondence is valuable.

Something employees often overlook is understanding the legal and regulatory structure of the cities and states they live in. Most states are “at will”, which allows an employer to terminate workers without giving them a reason why. Understanding the laws and regulations that are in place in the jurisdiction you live in will provide you with valuable knowledge from which to make a good decision.

During the termination an employee may want to ask for the reason why they are being let go. They should take physical or at the very least mental notes, and write down their memories as soon as they can after the meeting. Many employers will not give a specific reason in these termination meetings. Still, sometimes, an employer may discuss the issues that led to termination. In these cases, an employee should listen carefully and see if things make sense. For example, the employer may say that economic conditions led to job cuts. In that case, it should be fairly easy for the employee to determine whether or not that is the truth. How many other employees were let go? Is the national or local economy in a slow down or recession? Has the work at this particular company slowed down? Has there been internal talk of a drop off in revenue or a loss? If it’s a public company that information is readily available.

Finally, use notes and documentation to determine if there was any hint of discriminatory or retaliation behavior prior to termination. If a terminated employee can make the case for discrimination or retaliation, the termination may have been a wrongful one.

In all cases of wrongful termination, victims need to seek professional legal advice and if it is determined that they have a case, move forward to get redress. If you would like a free consultation with a wrongful termination attorney visit our free case evaluation page – http://www.aegislawfirm.com/free-case-evaluation/.

Sexual Harassment Attorney

To Call or Not to Call – Why You Need a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Are you afraid to talk to a lawyer?
Do you think you might need a sexual harassment attorney?

Our country is in the midst of turbulent change, particularly regarding social matters. Issues such as racial and gender equality lead the forefront, calling upon those in power (and well, all of us really) to take a stand against civil injustice.

One of the prominent ideals of gender equality (namely Feminism) is the notion that women do not have to silently accept unwanted attention – regardless of whether others perceive it as “positive” or “negative” attention. Be it from men cat calling as she walks down the street, or a boss who promises career advancement in exchange for a romantic relationship, the boundaries of what is acceptable/complimentary/”just locker room talk” are evolving.

Despite the positive changes which are slowly but surely taking place, women still face antiquated expectations and outlandish double standards. Men who have many sexual partners are “experienced” while a woman is a “slut”. We are constantly told to smile more (something you rarely heard said to a man), “give the guy a chance” even if we aren’t attracted to them, and that sexual assault can be expected if we don’t choose our outfits carefully enough.

For a woman experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, the stakes are raised tenfold. It isn’t just about your physical safety anymore, it’s also about financial security. You are placed in the difficult position of weighing the options – make a complaint and risk retaliation such as termination, or put up with the heinous behavior that you know you do not deserve. This behavior, of course, may rear its ugly head in a variety of different forms. Maybe the guy at the desk next to you constantly makes sexual jokes, though he knows they make you feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps your boss texts you too late at night, talking about how he “wishes you were there with him” (ew, I’m tired and just want to get to sleep). Then there are the more obvious, more worrisome, and unfortunately more frequent examples – the one who tries to get you alone, the one that stands too close to you or follows you whenever you get up to go to the bathroom, or most awful of all, the one that for some reason thinks it’s okay to touch you without your consent.

The implications can be terrifying when you see stories like these in the news everyday (or even due to the news…I’m looking at you, Fox News). Who knows what this person is capable of? On the other hand, if you complain and lose your job, how will you pay rent? Put gas in the car? Feed your family? Many women determine that the financial aspect takes precedence, usually because they feel alone and don’t know what their options are.

But What To Do?

This is the point where an experienced sexual harassment attorney needs to step in on your behalf. Your livelihood and peace of mind are not something to hesitate protecting, and that is what a sexual harassment attorney can help you do. Whether you are still employed or have been terminated, contacting an attorney is the best course of action. Naturally, the thought of reaching out to a sexual harassment attorney can be a stressful experience as well, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to do so. But rest assured that it is the best way to protect yourself, your job, or possibly others who might be facing the same behavior from the harasser. At many firms (such as our own), the initial contact is completely confidential and without obligation. After gathering the basic information, an attorney will evaluate your situation and invite you in for a free consultation where your options will be discussed. It’s hassle free, and at the very least will give you an idea of where you stand.

Never be afraid to act in your own best interest. You are worth it!

For more information on how to obtain a sexual harassment attorney, see our page on the topic.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment in Corporate America – Not Just TV Drama

The 1960s probably come to mind when you think of men making aggressive (perhaps appalling) advances towards female co-workers. But the reality is, that “Mad Men” stereotype is not too far from the corporate world today. Even the 2016 election cycle seemed to bring some of this issue to light – i.e. grab them by the what? The Roger Ailes controversy was one of the most widely publicized and closely followed news stories of the year. Over two dozen women came forward to speak out against Ailes’ inappropriate behavior, leading the big wig to resign from Fox News after a 20 year career. The world was shocked when women spoke of sexual harassment and assault from beloved comedian Bill Cosby.

But for many women, they don’t have to watch the news to see harassment culture in action. A report released in June 2016 by the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace revealed some alarming findings. Key findings included:

  • Workplace harassment remains a persistent problem
  • Workplace harassment often goes unreported (3 out of 4 victims never report the harassment)
  • There is a compelling business case for stopping and preventing harassment
  • It starts at the top
  • It’s on us (everyone)

The EEOC also notes that 45% of all complaints filed are based on sex. This is far more than any other type of harassment reported. They have also noted that 83% of all sexual harassment charges were filed by women.

Joann Lublin details the trials and tribulations of female executives in her book, Earning It: Hard Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World. She is also the management-news editor at the Wall Street Journal. Lublin interviewed several successful women for the book and shares their personal stories of sexual harassment and degradation. Many of the anecdotes take place in the 1980s and 1990s, but not all. The broad span of years in which the incidents take place is rather disheartening. Unfortunately, it’s evident from many sources that sexual harassment still prevails today as well.

Most recently, a lawsuit was filed against insurance company AIG by their former employee Marlee Valenti. The plaintiff began working for AIG in 2009, and was promoted within a year to Senior Underwriter. She won multiple awards for her performance. The issues began in 2012 when she was transferred to the Public Management Liability Commercial Lines Division. The division was well known within the company as the “Boy’s Club”, as only an estimated 10% of its employees were female. Valenti states that in the division, she and other female employees endured incredulous acts of sexual harassment, including male executives hiding under women’s desks in order to look up their skirts. Valenti also stated that she had been groped and licked by male co-workers, among other things. Though the behavior was grotesque, the plaintiff didn’t feel there was anyone she could make a complaint to. Her direct supervisor Michael Donnelly was, in her words, “a willing participant” in the problematic behavior. Eventually, Valenti states that Donnelly began showing “clear disdain” towards her. This escalated in September of 2013 when she received a formal written performance warning. Along with the write-up, Valenti’s biggest account was taken away from her and she claims that she was denied opportunities, as all of her supervisors began ignoring her. In December 2013, the problems came to a head when Valenti discovered her co-workers had been “speaking negatively” about her to others in the industry. She had enough. This prompted Valenti to submit a 150 page rebuttal to management, complete with “evidence” of the harassment she had endured. The following month, Valenti was fired. The company allegedly completed “a perfunctory investigation” but found no wrongdoing.

It is only a small percentage of stories such as these that gain notoriety. The only way that workplace harassment will be eradicated is if each of us take action. That can be in the form of making complaints on your own behalf, or standing up for co-workers. When necessary, it can also take the form of a lawsuit. If you feel that you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, call our office for a free consultation. Together, we can help end this epidemic, one case at a time.

 

Sources:

http://nypost.com/2017/01/24/ex-aig-worker-sues-over-never-ending-stream-of-harassment/

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/aig-worker-sues-sexual-harassment-article-1.2953841

http://dealbreaker.com/2017/01/aig-sexual-harassment-lawsuit/

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/10/when-women-have-power-they-can-do-something-about-sexual-harassment/505316/

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report.cfm#_Toc453686298