Have You Been Wrongfully Terminated?
An employee may recover monetary damages against a California employer who wrongfully terminates them. Wrongful termination damages may include lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, loss of professional reputation, attorney fees, and punitive damages in some cases.
Your specific damages depend on the losses you have incurred due to your wrongful termination. A Los Angeles, CA employment lawyer can help you understand the value of your case and how much you can get in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Getting Damages for Lost Wages and Benefits in a Wrongful Termination Case
The most common type of damages in a wrongful termination case are lost wages and benefits. These are compensatory damages meant to repay you for direct losses you’ve incurred. They are available in nearly every wrongful termination case.
Lost wages and employment benefits may be calculated by determining:
- The number of wages and/or salary that you lost due to being wrongfully terminated
- The value of any benefits you lost (including health insurance, paid time off (PTO), retirement, etc.)
- The value of lost wages you would have received if your employer had not terminated you and your employment continued as expected
- The amount of any other contract damages caused by the employer’s behavior
Thus, you can get both past and future lost wages and benefits in a wrongful termination case. However, for future wages, you must be able to determine how long the employee would have continued to work. This involves factors such as age, work performance, intent, and the odds the employer would have continued operations. In some cases, an expert is needed to determine the value of future damages.
Duty to Mitigate Damages for Lost Wages
In California employment lawsuits, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. That means that you must look for and accept alternative employment in an attempt to make up for some or all of your financial losses that were caused by the wrongful termination.
The court will consider whether the employee could or did mitigate damages. Any damages awarded in a wrongful termination lawsuit may be reduced by the amount you actually earned or could have earned from another job.
In fact, the employer may request that your wrongful termination damages are reduced if:
- You were offered a job that was substantially similar to your former job and you refused to accept it
- You did not make reasonable efforts to obtain a new job
- The amount of money you could have earned from a refused job would have satisfied your damages
The burden is on the employer to request mitigation of damages. You are not required to show that you were unable to mitigate your damages unless the employer first meets their burden of proof.
Non-Economic Damages in Wrongful Termination Cases
You are also eligible to recover non-economic damages in a wrongful termination case. Non-economic damages are not directly related to out-of-pocket expenses or lost money. However, they can have a monetary value placed upon them.
The most common types of non-economic damages in employment lawsuits include:
- Emotional distress
- Mental suffering
- Harm to your professional reputation
- Physical symptoms associated with mental suffering
While non-economic damages are not available in contract-related wrongful termination cases, they are a consideration in the following:
- Cases based on public policy
- Whistleblower cases
- California WARN Act cases
- FEHA retaliation cases
- Workplace harassment cases
It’s important to work with a wrongful termination lawyer who understands California laws and can explain to you if non-economic damages are available in your case. They can often make up a large portion of your damages. You deserve to be compensated for all your losses, including those that are non-economic in nature.
Attorney Fees and Litigation Costs in Wrongful Termination Cases
There are certain types of wrongful termination cases where an employee may also be able to directly recover attorney fees and litigation costs. Litigation costs can include court fees and expert witness fees, which can be significant.
While most employment law clients pay for their legal fees out of their settlement or damages they are awarded, under certain state and federal statutes, the employer may be responsible. Wrongful termination laws that allow an employee to receive attorney’s fees include:
- The Whistleblower provisions of the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act (protecting employees of publicly traded companies when shareholder fraud is reported)
- California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) retaliation law
- Labor Code 98.6 and 6310 LC (protecting employees who report wage and hour violations and OSHA health and safety violations)
- The California False Claims Act (protecting employees who reported fraud by an employer involving government funds)
Your ability to recover attorney’s fees and litigation costs is highly dependent on the specific type of claim you are making regarding your wrongful termination.
Punitive Damages in Wrongful Termination Cases
While other types of damages are meant to compensate you for losses you’ve experienced, punitive damages are different. They are meant to punish the employer for egregious wrongdoing. In most cases, the employer’s wrongful termination must rise to the level of oppression, fraud, or malice for punitive damages to be awarded.
For example, if you were wrongfully terminated for reporting sexual harassment at work and your boss spreads embarrassing rumors about you, you may be able to get punitive damages due to your exceptionally wrongful behavior. The boss’s behavior would be described as malice, therefore punitive damages may be available.
A Wrongful Termination Lawyer Can Help You Get the Most Compensation Possible
Wrongful termination cases can be complex. Your employer will likely try to fight back. They may even deny any wrongdoing. They certainly won’t willingly pay you the damages you deserve. You need someone on your side who can stand up for your rights and protect you going forward.
Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney Sam Setyan has helped countless clients in your situation. Call Setyan Law at (213)-618-3655 for a consultation.