San Francisco Wrongful Termination Lawyers Help Employees
All employees deserve to be treated fairly by their employers.
However, the unfortunate reality is that employers frequently evade the law. At the McCormack Law Firm, San Francisco employment lawyer Bryan McCormack aggressively pursues wrongful termination claims against all types of employers. Attorney McCormack has over 20 years of experience representing employees who have been wronged by their employers and has a track record of success across all areas of California employment law.
If you have been wrongfully terminated, you may be entitled to compensation, including compensatory and punitive damages.
California is an at-will employment state
However, while California is an at-will employment state, employers cannot fire an employee for an illegal reason, including:
Violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws
Retaliation for making a discrimination or harassment claim or participating in an investigation
Reporting workplace safety violations
Requesting payment of due wages, overtime, or commissions
Reporting any other illegal acts by an employer or its managers, employees, or agents
According to data from the EEOC, between 2015 and 2019 discrimination complaints included:
A total of 414,235 discrimination cases were filed. These included 140,440 race discrimination complaints, 127,122 sex discrimination complaints, and 130,722 disability discrimination complaints.
These complaints break down in similar proportions with 33.9 percent of total discrimination cases being race discrimination complaints, 30.6 percent being sex discrimination complaints, and 31.6 percent being disability discrimination complaints.
Race discrimination complaints are most common:
Companies are more likely to fire older employees because they are more expensive to keep on the payroll.
According to statistics from Glassdoor, 61 percent of respondents have personally or as a witness experienced workplace discrimination. And 48 percent of workers over 50 report having seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
In fact, over 60 percent of people over 70 have unexpectedly lost a job at some point in their career.
Exceptions to at-will employment
Under California law, there are several exceptions to the at-will employment arrangement. For example, the following employees may not be considered an at-will employee:
Employees in the public sector
Employees in the public sector are not bound by the at-will rule.
Employees belonging to a labor union
Or, those covered by a collective bargaining agreement stating that the at-will rule does not apply.
Employees with certain contracts
Employees with written employment contracts requiring “good cause” for termination.
Certain employer actions
Employees whose employers’ actions overcome the presumption of at-will employment.
Few employees belong to one of the above categories. However, no California employee may be fired for an illegal reason, including:
Being a member of a protected class
Including race, color, disability, medical condition, sex, national origin, age, family status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information or veteran status
Reporting in good faith
Complaining in good faith of discrimination or harassment, or participating in an investigation, or reporting any other illegal activity.
Requesting payment of all due wages, overtime or commissions
Independent contractor status
While independent contractors may not have all of these protections, many contractors are misclassified, and it is best to check with an employment attorney.
Retaliation claims against California employers
Statistics show that the majority of people who experience discrimination or safety violations in the workplace do not report it. Often this is due to fear of being fired.
Under state and federal laws, California employers cannot fire an employee based on the fact that they engaged in any of the following conduct:
Reported workplace discrimination or harassment
Resisted sexual harassment, or protested any inappropriate, sexually-themed workplace activity
Requested pregnancy leave
Used company sick leave, or requested time off under California Paid Sick Leave
Requested medical leave to care for a serious health condition, a sick loved one or newborn baby
Requesting an employer provide a legally-required meal or rest breaks
What if I think I have been wrongfully terminated?
Often, employees can pick up on signals from their employers before they are fired. Those employees who are afraid that they may be fired can take certain precautions now to protect their rights:
Should an employee challenge an employer’s decision to terminate them, it will be important that the employee has documentation of what was going on at the time immediately before they were fired. Employees should document, in writing, all illegal activity that they have witnessed and send it to a supervisor or the human resources department. Always keep a separate copy of these records not on a work computer.
Without violating the law, employees should obtain all relevant records related to their claim. This may include performance evaluations, timecards, pay stubs, internal memos or emails, and copies of the company’s policies.
If an employer responds to a complaint by initiating an investigation, an employee should fully cooperate. An employee’s failure to do so could result in the employer using that fact against the employee later on. However, employees should document as accurately as possible the conversations related to the investigation.
While it will be difficult, employees should try to stay polite and professional, even if their employer is not. An employee who loses their temper at work might end up giving the employer a valid reason to terminate their employment.
If any other employees, customers, vendors or other people in the workplace witnessed any of the employer’s illegal activity or comments, employees should be sure to obtain their name and contact information.
Stand up for your rights
Often, employers who start to “see the writing on the wall” will offer an employee a severance package if they are willing to sign away their rights to pursue an employment claim. While that may seem to be an easy solution to the problem, the nominal amount of money obtained may be only a fraction of what a claim is worth. Additionally, by keeping quiet an employee is implicitly allowing the employer to continue their illegal employment practices..
What if I was laid off?
Where there is a legitimate business reason for termination, a wrongful termination case may fail, even where the employee has suffered some harm. A large-scale layoff is often viewed by courts as one such legitimate business reason. However you may still have a good case if, for instance, you were the only one laid off in the company, or in your work group; or if the employer actually replaced you after you were “laid off.”
Wrongful Termination Frequently Asked Questions
You have the right to be treated fairly by your employer
Bryan. McCormack has a keen understanding of employers’ legal responsibilities, and will perform the diligent, painstaking work required to uncover the truth behind an employer’s actions. Regardless of your job title, the number of hours you work, or how much you are paid, you have the right to be treated fairly by your employer. We handle all types of California employment law claims, including wrongful termination claims, sexual harassment claims and retaliation claims. We also handle wage theft, unpaid overtime, commissions, missed meal breaks and many other employment issues. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to speak with an attorney about your situation, call (415) 925-5161.