The Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers at Azadian Law Group, PC know that a wrongful termination can have significant impacts on an employee’s life. In addition to causing financial stress, wrongful terminations can also result in emotional distress and possibly even damage someone’s professional reputation and career.
At the Azadian Law Group, PC, our wrongful termination attorneys are dedicated to standing up for employees’ rights and holding employers accountable for illegal dismissals. Focused on providing aggressive legal advocacy, our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys are ready to help you fight for the maximum possible recovery if you have been the target of wrongful termination.
Mr. Azadian has recovered over $75,000,000 for his clients. He is highly regarded as one of the best Los Angeles employment law lawyers. His philosophy to employment litigation is that you have been both very reasonable and extremely aggressive. “I simply won’t stop until I get my client a good result. These employees and executives have been put through so much by these corporations that I am thrilled to give them back their power and voice.”
Mr. Azadian carefully evaluates employment cases to determine if termination is illegal. Based on his experience gained through personally litigating hundreds of employment cases, he is able to provide clients with a detailed strategy and tailor the approach taken to meet the client’s specific needs. Mr. Azadian understands that some employees are fine with going through a lawsuit, while others may heavily prefer severance negotiations and he discusses all options with potential clients to ensure they have a smooth experience. “I understand that 99% of my client have never sued a company before and will never likely sue a company again. It is my job to get them the best result possible and also to make sure they are comfortable with the process.”
California is an “at-will” employment state. This means that, when employees don’t have an employment contract detailing grounds for termination, they are presumed to be “at-will” employees.
At-will employees may be terminated for any (or no) reason, so long as it’s not illegal. Generally, illegal reasons for firing at-will employees involve terminations stemming from or related to:
“Wrongful termination cases typically arise when an employer retaliates against an employee for . . . reporting an alleged violation of a statute of public importance.” See Gould v. Maryland Sound Indus., Inc., 31 Cal. App. 4th 1137, 1147 (1995). Some common and more specific examples of wrongful termination include (but are not necessarily limited to) being fired or dismissed from a job as a result of:
Even where the employee is mistaken (meaning their complaint is not factually valid), they are still protected against retaliation as long as they reasonably believed their complaint was justified. See Nosal-Tabor v. Sharp Chula Vista Med. Ctr., 239 Cal. App. 4th 1224, 1242 (2015) (reversing summary judgment in favor of the employer and finding that wrongful termination based on Labor Code section 1102.5(c) because a reasonable juror could find that the employee/nurse was retaliated against for refusing to lead a cardiac stress test, which the nurse/employee believed should be led by a doctor and was not within a nurses scope of practice); see also Barbosa v. IMPCO Technologies, Inc., 179 Cal. App. 4th 1116, 1123 (2009) (“The public policy behind § 6310 is not merely to aid the reporting of actual safety violations it is also to prevent retaliation against those who in good faith report working conditions they believe to be unsafe. As long as the employee makes the health or safety complaint in good faith, it does not matter for purposes of a wrongful termination action whether the complaint identifies an actual violation of other workplace safety statutes or regulations.”); Yanowitz v. L’Oreal USA, Inc., 36 Cal. 4th 1028, 1043 (2005) (“It is well established that a retaliation claim may be brought by an employee who has complained of or opposed conduct that the employee reasonably believes to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the FEHA. . . . A rule that permits an employer to retaliate against an employee with impunity whenever the employee’s reasonable belief turns out to be incorrect would significantly deter employees from opposing conduct they believe to be discriminatory.”)
Elaborating more on this issue, the following answers some common questions about wrongful terminations and employees’ rights in Los Angeles, California.
In August 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues. The guidance replaces EEOC’s 1998 Compliance Manual on retaliation and clarifies the agency’s perspective on what constitutes retaliation under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Protection Act (EPA), Title II of the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The effective date of the new guidance was August 29, 2016. The last time retaliation guidance was provided by the EEOC was in 1998. In a statement related to releasing the new guidance, EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang: “Retaliation is asserted in nearly 45 percent of all charges we receive and is the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination.”
The EEOC retaliation guidance is very important in the sense that the guidance is largely based on Supreme Court and the lower court rulings regarding employment-related retaliation. See EEOC v. New Breed Logistics, 783 F.3d 1057, 1067 (6th Cir. 2015) (“Great deference” is given to the EEOC’s interpretation by Courts.)
For purposes of EEOC enforcement, the following Federal Laws prohibit retaliation:
Other Federal laws outside of the EEOC’s responsibilities also prohibit retaliation, including:
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (protects employees of public companies who “blow the whistle” by reporting conduct that they reasonably believe constitutes a violation of federal law relating to financial, securities or shareholder fraud).
Dodd-Frank Act (provides protection to whistleblowers by prohibiting retaliation by employers against individuals who provide the SEC with information regarding potential securities violations).
Also, California state employment laws provide numerous additional protected activities, including complaints about unsafe working conditions, refusal to participate in illegal activity, complaints about unsafe patient care, and complaints about defrauding the government (to name a few).
“Protected activity” refers to actions an employee takes that are protected against retaliation by his or her employer. These protected activities can be broken down into two broad categories: (1) participation by the employee; and (2) opposition by the employee.
“Participation” is a rare form of protected activity and generally consists of making a complaint with the EEOC, acting as a witness in a hearing related to discrimination or other illegal employment practice, or filing a lawsuit related to discrimination or other illegal employment practice. Employees who participate in such activities are protected even when their underlying complaint is not valid. See Wyatt v. City of Bos., 35 F.3d 13, 15 (1st Cir. 1994) (“there is nothing in [the participation clause’s] wording requiring that the charges be valid, nor even an implied requirement that they are reasonable.”); see also Ayala v. Summit Constructors, Inc., 788 F. Supp. 2d 703, 720-21 (M.D. Tenn. 2011) (holding that anti-retaliation protection for participation is “‘not lost if the employee is wrong on the merits of the charge, nor is protection lost if the contents of the charge are malicious and defamatory as well as wrong.”)
“Opposition” is the much more common form of protected activity in the employment context, including internal complaints to managers or human resources about a discriminatory or illegal employment practice. The opposition clause of Title VII has an “expansive definition.” EEOC v. New Breed Logistics, 783 F.3d 1057, 1067 (6th Cir. 2015). As the Supreme Court stated, “when an employee communicates to her employer a belief that the employer has engaged in . . . a form of employment discrimination, that communication virtually always constitutes the employee’s opposition to the activity.” Crawford v. Metro. Gov’t of Nashville & Davidson Cty., 555 U.S. 271, 276 (2009).
To Qualify As Opposition The Employee Does Not Have To Use Legal Buzz Words
The EEOC’s guidance provides: “The communication itself may be informal and need not include the words ‘harassment,’ ‘discrimination,’ or any other legal terminology, as long as circumstances show that the individual is conveying opposition or resistance to a perceived potential equal employment opportunity violation.”
For example, in Okoli v. City of Balt., 648 F.3d 216, 224 (4th Cir. 2011), the Court ruled that it was sufficient to constitute “opposition” that the employee complained about “harassment” and described some facts about the sexual behavior in the workplace that was unwelcome, and that she did not need to use the term “sexual harassment” or other specific terminology.
In contrast, just complaining about unfair treatment is generally not protected. In Barber v. CSX Distrib. Servs., 68 F.3d 694, 701-02 (3d Cir. 1995), the Court ruled that an employee’s letter to human resources complaining that the job he sought went to a less qualified individual did not constitute opposition to age discrimination, because the letter did not explicitly or implicitly allege age was the reason for the alleged unfairness.
While the opposition is usually in the form of a complaint made by the employee, this is not always the case. The EEOC’s guidance provides the examples of
Can an employer retaliate against an employee based on the employee’s relationship with someone who has made a protected complaint?
No. The United States Supreme Court in Thompson v. N. Am. Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170 (2011) ruled that the male fiance of a female employee who filed a complaint of sex discrimination against the employer with the EEOC was protected under the law and stated a claim for violations of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision. It did not matter that the male fiance did not make a complaint himself or engage in a protected activity. The Court reasoned that the male fiance was “not an accidental victim of the retaliation — collateral damage, so to speak, of the employer’s unlawful act. To the contrary, injuring him was the employer’s intended means of harming” is fiance who had made a complaint of sexual harassment against the employer.
The most severe form of retaliation is terminating/firing the employee. However, other forms of negative treatment (called adverse actions) are also prohibited, such as suspensions, demotions, and reductions in pay.
The Supreme Court in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006) ruled that a “materially adverse action” subject to challenge under the anti-retaliation provisions encompasses a broader range of actions than an “adverse action” subject to challenge under the non-discrimination provisions. In light of the purpose of anti-retaliation protection, it expansively covers any employer action that “might well deter a reasonable employee from complaining about discrimination.” Action need not be materially adverse standing alone, as long as the employer’s retaliatory conduct, considered as a whole, would deter protected activity.
Examples of negative treatment that is sufficient to prove a “materially adverse action”:
Please keep in mind that the following is a small subset of the employment laws that protect employees from retaliation in the workplace. The best way to see if your rights have been violated is to contact our Los Angeles Employment Lawyers for a free consultation regarding your termination.
California Labor Code section 98.6
Protects employees against retaliation for filing or threatening to file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.
California Labor Code section 230
Protects employees against retaliation for taking time off to serve on a jury provided the employee gives reasonable notice that he or she is required to serve. Also, protects an employee against retaliation who is a victim of a crime or who takes time off to appear in court to comply with a subpoena or other court order as a witness to a judicial proceeding.
California Labor Code section 230.3
Protects employees who take time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve peace officer, or an officer, employee, or member of a disaster medical response entity sponsored or requested by the State.
California Labor Code section 230.4
Protects an employee who is a volunteer firefighter, a reserve peace officer or emergency rescue personnel, and works for an employer employing 50 or more employees from being discriminated or retaliated against because he or she has taken time off to engage in fire or law enforcement training. The employee is permitted to take up to an aggregate of 14 days per calendar year for such training.
California Labor Code section 230.5
Protects employees who are victims of certain crimes against retaliation for taking time off from work to appear in court or other official proceedings. California Labor Code section 232
Protects employees from retaliation for disclosing or discussing the amount of his or her wages. Discussing wages is often a method whereby employees learn to pay disparities that may be caused by gender or race.
California Labor Code section 233
Protects employees who use accrued paid sick days for their own healthcare or for the illness of a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or child of the domestic partner of the employee.
California Labor Code section 432.7
Protects the right of an applicant for employment or employee to not disclose information concerning an arrest that did not result in an actual conviction.
California Labor Code section 432.8
Protects the rights of an applicant for employment or employee from disclosing information regarding a marijuana conviction that is older than two years.
California Labor Code section 1024.6
An employer may not discharge an employee or in any manner discriminate, retaliate, or take any adverse action against an employee because the employee updates or attempts to update his or her personal information based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.
California Labor Code sections 1030-1033
Prohibits retaliation against an employee who requests a breastfeeding accommodation or who attempts to express breast milk.
California Labor Code section 1102.5
Protects employees who report their employer’s illegal activities to the government or refuse to engage in illegal activity at work from retaliation.
California Labor Code section 2929
Prohibits discrimination because the garnishment of an employee’s wages has been threatened, or because his or her wages have been subjected to garnishment (such as for child support or taxes).
California Labor Code section 6310
It protects employees who complain about safety or health conditions or practices at work (including complaints made under California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
California Labor Code section 6403.5
Protects employees who refuse to lift, position, or transfer a patient due to the health care worker’s concerns about patient or worker safety (including hospital workers who are asked to lift patients).
The damages you might recover if you win a wrongful termination case against an employer can take several forms. A common outcome of winning such a case is recovering compensation for wages and benefits that were lost as a result of being fired illegally. Other types of damages you may recover include:
Additionally, many who file wrongful termination claims and lawsuits do so in the hopes of getting their jobs back. Although an ethical Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney can’t promise a specific outcome when they accept your case, this is a goal your lawyer may be able to help you pursue.
Be aware that ensuring your employer pays the price for illegally firing you will benefit both yourself and anyone else who currently works for them or who may work for them in the future. Employers who are guilty of wrongful termination are often less likely to break the law in this capacity again if they’re held accountable. By seeking the assistance of an established Los Angeles wrongful termination firm, you’re potentially helping others avoid this unpleasant experience you’ve had to go through.
The process of taking legal action against an employer with a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer’s help begins with an initial case evaluation. This free consultation gives a legal expert the opportunity to confirm whether you have a valid case. It also gives you a no-obligation chance to determine whether you believe a particular firm is equipped to serve you.
Your goal is to ensure this consultation is as informative and productive as possible. Thus, you may prepare for it by taking the following steps:
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated or retaliated against at work, we want to hear from you. Azadian Law Group, PC serves the greater Los Angeles and Orange County areas and offers free consultations. To speak to one of our knowledgeable wrongful termination attorneys today, please call 626-449-4944 or 213-229-9031 or 949-662-5405 As we never charge our clients a penny out-of-pocket, you can rest assured that when we accept a case, we are standing behind our client 100% and will fight aggressively for their rights.