To prove wrongful termination, an employee must show there was an employment relationship that was terminated by the employer for an illegal reason and that the discharge caused the employee harm.
If you were wrongfully terminated by an employer in California, it can be difficult to prove your employer’s actions were illegal. However, once you are successful you can get compensation to cover your damages.
What Is Wrongful Termination?
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer discharges an employee for an illegal reason, such as:
- Unlawful retaliation
- Breach of contract
- Violation of public policy
Employers rarely admit that they fired someone wrongfully. An experienced employment lawyer can help find evidence to support your claim and prove that you were discharged for illegal reasons.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Wrongful Termination Case?
In a wrongful termination case, the employee has the burden of proving that the employer fired them for illegal purposes. To do that, the employee must show the following:
- There was an employer-employee relationship;
- Their employer terminated their employment;
- The reason they were fired was illegal; and
- They suffered harm because of the discharge.
Each of these elements of wrongful termination must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. That means that there is greater than 50% chance that the claim is true.
How To Prove There Was an Employer-Employee Relationship
California labor laws use an ABC test to determine the “employment status” of workers. This test was established by Assembly Bill (AB) 5, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019. Under the ABC test, you are considered an employee unless:
- Your work performance is not under the control and direction of the hiring entity;
- You perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s usual course of business; and
- You customarily engage in an independently established industry that is of the same nature as the work being performed.
It’s important to have evidence to prove you are an employee. For example, you might have documentation from your employer that states when and where you must work. You might have timecards that were kept by your employer. You might have performance reviews from your employer for yourself and coworkers. All these pieces of information would point to an employer-employee relationship.
Proving Your Employer Terminated Your Employment
You might think it should be obvious that your employer terminated you if you are no longer working. However, your employer may claim that you actually took actions that resulted in your employment ending.
For example, your employer may claim that you have no longer returned to work, effectively ending your employment relationship.
You will need evidence that you were terminated. Some common documentation of termination may include:
- Emails telling you not to return to work
- A signed letter stating your termination date
- Text messages from your supervisor
- Removal of your employee login from the computer system
- Inability to access company email or documents
How To Prove Your Termination was Unlawful
According to a California court decision in Pugh v. See’s Candies, Inc. (1981), 116 Cal.App. 311, the employee must prove that their termination was unlawful. The exact evidence used to do this will depend on the specific circumstances of the claim. However, there are some common types of evidence that are often used to prove a wrongful termination claim, including:
- Statements made by supervisors and coworkers
- Emails to you or about you
- Knowledge of supervisors of your protected activity
- The employer’s history of firing people after protected activity
A protected activity may include any right that is protected by law. For example, if you are injured on the job, you have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim. If you are fired the next day, then the temporal proximity (time) between the protected activity and the termination is so close that there is a strong indication that they are related.
What If the Employer Has a Reason for Termination?
Your employer may claim that it has a valid reason for your termination. In this case, the burden of proof would shift to the employer to prove their reason for firing you was legal.
For example, your employer may claim that you were terminated for missing a day without calling in to notify your supervisor (a “no-call no-show”).
This would shift the burden of proof back to you to prove that the termination reason your employer’s stated reason for firing you is false. You may have to have evidence, including documentation and witness statements, to prove that the employer’s claims are false.
Proving Damages in a California Wrongful Discharge Claim
Even if your employment was terminated, you must prove that you have monetary losses due to your wrongful termination. Damages may include lost wages, unearned benefits, loss of professional reputation, and other elements of harm. Your damages can be proven with:
- Check stubs
- W2 forms
- Tax documents
- Statements of accumulated benefits
- Retirement account summaries
- Bank statements
- Records of bonuses
The more damages you can prove, the more money you can recover in your wrongful termination claim.
In some cases, your former employer may have to pay penalties or your legal fees for egregious actions.
Contact a seasoned employment attorney to Discuss Your Wrongful Termination Case
California’s employment laws are complex. Your employer will likely fight back against a wrongful termination case. You need someone on your side to protect your rights and get the money you deserve. Call Top-Ranked Los Angeles Employment Attorney Sam Setyan at Setyan Law today at (213)-618-3655 to schedule a free initial consultation.