Wrongful termination by means of any discriminatory practice is outlawed in California and in the country as a whole, but proving that you were wrongfully fired can be difficult.
What is Wrongful Termination?
How Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination?
In order to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, you must have ample proof that you were mistreated or that your employer deliberately fired you despite knowing that doing so would be illegal.
Your first step should always be to go to Human Resources to see about filing a complaint against your employer if you have been getting mistreated at work. You may not have time to do this if you suffered termination, though. It is therefore recommended that you start looking for evidence as soon as you start to feel as though there are some misgivings going on.
It will come in handy for you to collect any proof that you were wrongfully fired, such as messages between relevant parties, recorded statements, statements and testimonies from eyewitnesses and coworkers, and more. You should be sure to have any documents like contracts or agreements to prove that you were supposed to be working for another few months or years. You can also provide footage or statements to show that you were elsewhere fulfilling a civic duty, like voting.
What if I found a job after being Terminated? Do I still have a case?
What Does it Mean to Mitigate Damages?
The doctrine of mitigation of damages holds that ‘[a] plaintiff who suffers damage as a result of either a breach of contract or a tort has a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate those damages and will not be able to recover for any losses which could have been thus avoided.’ A plaintiff may not recover for damages avoidable through ordinary care and reasonable exertion. The duty to mitigate damages does not require an injured party to do what is unreasonable or impracticable. ‘The rule of mitigation of damages has no application where its effect would be to require the innocent party to sacrifice and surrender important and valuable rights.’” (Valle de Oro Bank v. Gamboa (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 1686, 1691 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 329])
Essentially, mitigating damages means taking the route that would allow you to still receive your previous wages. You have a duty to try and search for a job or other means of earning income so that you are not taking advantage of the company. If you turn down job offers and opt to sit home and do nothing while you get paid for the wrongful termination, your case could very well suffer and you would not earn as much money in the settlement.
In Some Situations When an Employee Gets a New Job, His Limit to His Lost Wages Becomes Capped… But Not Always.
Wages actually earned from an inferior job may not be used to mitigate damages. If they were used, then it would result “in senselessly penalizing an employee who, either because of an honest desire to work or a lack of financial resources, is willing to take whatever employment he can find.” (Rabago-Alvarez v. Dart Industries, Inc. (1976) 55 Cal.App.3d 91, 99.) The location of the new job is one of the factors to consider in determining whether the new job is inferior. (See California School Employees Assn. v. Personnel Commission (1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 241, 249, 255 [considering the location of available jobs].) (Villacorta v. Cemex Cement, Inc., 221 (2013) Cal. App. 4th 1425, 1432. Rabago-Alvarez v.Dart Industries, Inc. (1976) 55 Cal.App 3d 91, 97).
This means that a worker who must now travel 2 hours away to earn a living wage is still in an inferior position, even if the pay is comparable.
In order for the employee’s earnings to be applied in mitigation, “the employer must show that the other employment was comparable, or substantially similar, to that of which the employee has been deprived [.]” (Id. at p. 182, 89 Cal.Rptr. 737, 474 P.2d 689.) Thus, if the new job is different or inferior, then the wages from that job may not be used to mitigate damages.
Even a somewhat similar position may be insufficient to trigger mitigation. In Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., the California Supreme Court held that actress Shirley Maclaine Parker, who sued for breach of contract after losing the leading role in a musical, did not fail to mitigate by turning down a female lead role in a western drama. In Parker v. Tentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 Cal.3d 176 (1970), The Court reasoned that, although the two jobs were ostensibly similar, the Western would require Maclaine Parker to travel to Australia for the production and would not showcase her talents as a dancer like the musical would have. Thus, because the defendant’s wrongdoing should not force the plaintiff to alter the course of his or her career, it is not necessary for a plaintiff to take just any job offered in order to mitigate damages.
Knowing exactly how much you’re owed when being terminated from work is complicated. Beyond lost wages, our employment attorneys will also look to future wages, loss of benefits, and any other financial benefits an individual was receiving at their workplace.
What Can You Win in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?
The concept of lost wages is perhaps the most well-known form of compensation that you can receive in a lawsuit filed against an employer for wrongful termination. You are owed the wages you missed out on because you were not in employment, especially if there was ample discrimination occurring. It can be very difficult to find another job, especially one that is the same.
We have provided some types of compensation you would receive from a lawsuit against your employer. Our lawyers can strive to win the following types of damages:
- Lost wages from the past and future, as in times when you were let go or discriminated against, and then for when you are unable to work, find work, or you are in between jobs
- Loss of benefits, which may include health insurance, life insurance, a retirement plan, and other similar damages, and sudden removal of those benefits can be extremely problematic, specifically in dire situations
- Pain and suffering damages, which are forms compensation meant to assuage psychological suffering, PTSD, anxiety, fear, and others
- Punitive damages, which are handed out in times of gross negligence or when a company deliberately tries to discriminate against an employee; these damages are very difficult to win, though, and can only be secured by a skilled lawyer, since many judges and juries view these damages as wholly unnecessary
You should always aim to receive the maximum compensation available under the law if you file a lawsuit.
Deadline to Sue Your Employer
You only have 300 days from the date of the termination to file a lawsuit against your employer once you have been issued the right to sue letter. You will find it difficult to sue if you do not act quickly. Bear in mind that any claims that are being filed against the government have a different statute of limitations – 45 days from the date of the termination.
Speak with an attorney to ensure that you are completely protected and that you have the best chance of success.