In Los Angeles, workers are generally “at-will” employees. This means they can be let go or fired for little or no reason at all.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. One of those exceptions is when a worker’s termination has violated an important public policy. If this exception applies but your employer fires you, anyway, you can hold them accountable by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. If successful, a wrongful termination lawsuit can lead to compensation that helps you overcome the professional setback.
In this article, our Los Angeles employment lawyers answer the following questions:
- When Does an Employer Violate Public Policy by Terminating a Worker?
- How Closely Does the Conduct and the Termination Have to Be?
- Do I Have to Be Fired?
- What Kind of Compensation May I Be Entitled To?
Employers can wrongfully terminate a worker by firing them or letting them go for a reason that violates public policy.
A public policy is something that might not be a law but is nevertheless an integral rule for how society functions. It can be thought of as an unwritten rule of society.
In the wrongful termination context, violating a public policy means doing something that would drastically undermine workplace fairness or law enforcement. Examples of terminations that are wrongful because they violate public policy in Los Angeles include:
- Firing someone when they refuse to break the law
- Terminating a worker when they get called for jury duty
- Laying someone off when they report a potential violation of the law
- Terminating someone’s position for exercising their Free Speech rights
- Forcing someone to resign for making a workers’ compensation claim
In each of these examples, allowing the employer to fire the worker would completely undermine an essential component of law enforcement or would impair how society functions on a fundamental level. If bosses could let someone go anytime they were called to serve on a jury, it could become incredibly difficult to put a jury together for a trial. If a worker can be fired for refusing to break the law while on the job or for reporting a potential crime, businesses would get away with some disturbing conduct with little risk of getting caught.
It is up to the worker filing the wrongful termination claim to prove that there was a causal connection between his or her protected actions under the public policy and their eventual termination. If the termination was not connected to the worker’s protected conduct, then it will not be considered wrongful.
This is one of the most important lines of defense that employers utilize when they want to avoid being held liable for wrongfully terminating one of their workers. They often come up with innocuous reasons to let someone go, even though they are really acting because the worker did something that was protected by public policy in Los Angeles and they want to retaliate. In some cases, employers will work for weeks to create another reason to terminate someone’s position.
For example, imagine a construction worker who helps an illiterate coworker fill out a workers’ compensation claim, angering their foreman who now has to hire a replacement for the hurt worker. Rather than firing the construction worker, outright, he gives the worker an impossible task to complete at work, and then, when he fails, the foreman fires him.
Showing that the real reason for the termination was the conduct protected by public policy – rather than the fake reason created by the employer – is a common part of a wrongful termination lawsuit in Los Angeles.
While most wrongful termination cases begin with a worker being fired, discharged, or laid off against their will, some of them involve voluntary resignations that came after the employer has made workplace conditions intolerable.
These are called constructive terminations and can lead to a lawsuit for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, as well. If these situations could not trigger a lawsuit, employers would retaliate against workers by making life unbearable for them until they quit, rather than just fire them, outright.
Proving that your resignation was really a constructive termination, though, can be difficult. You have to show that working conditions were so intolerable at the time of your resignation that a reasonable worker would have been forced to quit, and that your employer either intentionally created those horrible working conditions or knowingly allowed them to happen.
Workers who have been wrongfully terminated can file a civil lawsuit against their employer. Civil lawsuits demand the defendant – in this case, the employer who wrongfully terminated you – to pay compensation to the victim of their conduct.
In a wrongful termination case based on a violation of public policy in Los Angeles, the available compensation covers both past and future losses sustained by the worker, as well as for:
- Mental suffering
- Emotional distress
- Any physical or medical symptoms that stem from the stress caused by the wrongful termination
- Harm to your professional reputation
Past losses cover the time period from the day of the termination to the day a court verdict is issued, and include:
- Wages or salary lost due to the termination
- Benefits that the worker would have enjoyed, had they been employed, like health insurance
Future losses include the wages and benefits from the time of the court verdict until the time when your job would reasonably have ended.
In addition to the compensation that successful lawsuits can recover, some of the most egregious wrongful termination claims can also be awarded punitive damages. These are meant to punish the employer for, especially disturbing conduct by awarding you more than you need to be fully compensated. While punitive damages are rare in employment cases, they are awarded most often when an employer violates public policy.
Contact A Public Policy Wrongful Termination Attorney In Los Angeles Today
If you have been discharged due to a public policy matter, speak to an employment attorney immediately. Your rights may have been violated and you may be owed compensation. Contact Sirmabekian Law Firm, PC today.
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