Workers who are wrongfully terminated in Los Angeles can file a lawsuit that demands compensation for their losses. That compensation aims to make them “whole” by proving the financial coverage they need to recoup all of the professional setbacks that they have suffered from the incident.
In some cases, though, workers can also recover punitive damages, compensation for their emotional distress, attorneys’ fees, and may even be entitled to reinstatement at their old job.
In this article, our Los Angeles employment attorneys answer the following frequently asked questions about damages in wrongful termination claims:
- What are Compensatory Damages?
- Past Wages and Benefits
- Future Wages and Benefits
- Emotional Distress and Mental Suffering
- Loss of Professional Reputation
- What are Punitive Damages?
- Can Legal Costs Be Recovered in a Successful Case?
- What is the Duty to Mitigate Damages?
- Can I Be Reinstated to My Old Job?
Compensatory damages are those that aim to compensate victims of wrongful terminations. They provide financial coverage that is supposed to make up for what the victim lost in the incident. Compensatory damages make up the bulk of the financial demand in wrongful termination cases.
These damages, however, can be broken down into subcategories, each of which covers a distinct set of losses sustained by the victim:
- Past wages and benefits
- Future wages and benefits
- Emotional distress or mental suffering
- Loss of professional reputation
A core component of the compensation that can be recovered in a wrongful termination lawsuit is for your past wages and benefits. This covers the salary or other income that you would have received, plus the value of other benefits, like health insurance and retirement funds, between the date of your wrongful discharge and the eventual settlement or court verdict.
This compensation, however, is subject to the duty to mitigate your damages.
This type of compensation also covers the value of the salary and your other benefits. However, it is different in that it covers the time period from the date of the court verdict or settlement until you would have reasonably lost the job.
Future wages and benefits can be very difficult to calculate because they are, by their very nature, speculative. However, Los Angeles courts use factors that include:
The victim’s age, past work performance, and intent to stay with the employer
The employer’s intention or prospects for keeping the victim’s role
Any other factor that could influence how long the victim would have stayed in their position with the employer
The stress that people suffer after being fired illegally is considerable, and the law in Los Angeles recognizes that victims should be compensated for their experience in some cases. This includes any physical symptoms of that stress.
The types of cases that can lead to compensation for emotional distress and mental suffering include:
- Whistleblower retaliation
- Wrongful terminations in violation of public policy
- Wrongful terminations in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), including for engaging in protected political activities or for having a disability
However, wrongful termination claims that are based on a contract, including an implied contract, cannot seek damages for emotional distress.
If the wrongful discharge led to a stain on the victim’s professional reputation and that made it more difficult to find another job, a successful lawsuit can recover compensation for that setback, as well.
While rare and only reserved for the most egregious kinds of conduct, punitive damages may be available in a wrongful termination case. These cases require a showing that the employer was guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, though.
This type of damage is not meant to compensate victims for what they have been through. Instead, it is meant to punish the employer for, especially wrongful conduct by making them pay damages that are above and beyond what the victim needs to cover their losses.
The general rule is that victims suing their employer for wrongful termination have to pay their own lawyer – often from their settlement or verdict through a contingency agreement.
However, many California laws that forbid retaliation and wrongful termination allow successful plaintiffs to recover the costs of their lawsuit – including their attorneys’ fees – from the employer. The most prominent among these California statutes is the FEHA, which allows victims to recover legal fees from their employer in a successful wrongful termination case. However, many other wrongful terminations in violation of public policy can also lead to an award of attorneys’ fees.
While successful wrongful termination lawsuits lead to an award of compensatory damages, there is an important caveat and limitation to that award: You will not be compensated for wages and benefits that you earned after the termination, or that you could have earned after the termination.
This is a victim’s duty to mitigate their damages and losses.
The duty to mitigate damages keeps workers from securing a new job after the wrongful termination, earning an income at that new job, and then recovering their lost wages from their first job, as well. It also forces workers to take reasonable steps to reenter the workforce, rather than sitting back and accumulating lost wages for the former employer to pay.
For example, if a construction worker is wrongfully discharged and then does not look for a new job for a year, any lost wages they recover in a lawsuit against their former employer may be reduced because they failed to mitigate their damages. If the former employer can show that there were jobs available but the worker did not pursue them, it can reduce the worker’s compensation.
In some rare cases, it may be possible to be reinstated to a job that was lost due to wrongful termination. Most of the time, though, workers don’t want to be reinstated because of the bad blood from the wrongful termination. In these cases, future wages and benefits often take the place of reinstatement.
Contact A Resourceful, Dedicated Employment Attorney In Los Angeles Today
If you have been wrongfully terminated, you are owed compensation. At Sirimabekian Law Firm, PC, we have the resources, insight, and perseverance to make sure you get what you deserve. Contact us online or call us at 818-473-5003 to schedule a free consultation.
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