San Diego Wrongful Termination, Retaliation, and Whistleblower Defense Lawyer

Losing your job could have devastating effects on your life and family. This is especially true in today’s economy when so many people are straining to make ends meet. You may struggle to find a new position, especially if your firing leaves a negative mark on your resume. Your unemployment could eat into your savings or leave you behind on your home payments.

Sometimes, job loss is unavoidable and has nothing to do with you – such as company-wide layoffs or restructuring. Sometimes, termination is based on poor performance. Most jobs in the United States are based on at-will employment. That means you could be fired or your contract could be terminated for any reason at any time.

But what if you’ve experienced discrimination or harassment at work? What if your contract gets terminated because of your gender identity, race, or religion? What if you get fired in retaliation after you complain of workplace misconduct to your superiors?

Fortunately, the law protects you in these cases. In the United States, it is illegal to fire anyone for any reason that goes against public policy or law.

So what do you do if you’ve been fired unfairly?

The first and smartest thing you can do is talk to a local employment lawyer near you – as soon as possible. Wrongful termination cases have short statutes of limitations, which means you have only a small window of time to pursue your case.

Not only that, but your chances of winning your wrongful termination case are best when fresh. Otherwise, your employer has the time to erase or cover up evidence of wrongdoing.

Your lawyer can help you understand all of your options. One possibility is filing a wrongful termination lawsuit to recover what you would have gotten if you hadn’t been fired. This compensation could cover your lost wages and benefits. You can also recover for any emotional distress you suffered as a result of your termination. You may even receive punitive damages if your employer’s misconduct was bad enough to be punished.

Top 10 labor employment verdicts California 2023

Jordan Harlan is a tenacious San Diego employment lawyer who has championed employee rights for years. Harlan Law has fought to recover millions of dollars for our clients after they were wrongfully and illegally terminated from their jobs. With our contingency fee structure, your consultation is free and you don’t pay us unless we recover for you.

If you’re been illegally, unfairly, or wrongfully terminated from your job, you have enough in your life to worry about. Trust your case to the legal experts who know what you’re going through. At Harlan Law, clients are family. Let us take the burden off your shoulders today.

Call our experienced San Diego legal team now at (619) 870-0802 for a confidential, no-risk, zero-cost consultation with an experienced employment lawyer.

What Are Some Examples of Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination in violation of public policy is a serious offense. Your termination could be unlawful if you were fired for any illegal reason, including:

  • You refuse to break the law when your employer asks you to
  • Your employer acts out of discrimination against you based on your age, race, national origin, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, pregnancy, or other protected characteristic
  • Your employer retaliates against you for complaining about illegal discrimination or harassment in the workplace
  • You resist sexual advances or get punished for reporting sexual harassment
  • You act as a whistleblower by reporting workplace violations of the law, such as workplace safety issues or wage and hour offenses
  • You are fired and replaced with someone younger based only on your age
  • You cooperate with an investigation into workplace misconduct
  • You ask for accommodation for a disability or religious practice
  • You ask for information about whether your employer is in compliance with the law
  • You take legally protected medical leave for yourself or to take care of a family member
  • You leave your position temporarily to serve in the U.S. military
  • You ask your coworkers for salary information in order to determine if your company discriminates on wages

So many people suffer in hostile work environments rife with harassment and discrimination. Many workers aren’t even aware that their employers treat them in illegal or unethical ways. So many of these employees don’t realize that they have rights.

Going up against your employer can feel like an impossible task, doomed to fail from the beginning. After all, what resources do you have in comparison to a large company or corporation? As an employee, you are at the mercy of this power imbalance. 

This is where a strong attorney comes in. Having a lawyer on your side levels the playing field. If you’re concerned about the cost of an attorney, our law firm works on contingency fees, which means we don’t get paid until you get paid. This allows anyone to pursue justice for their case, no matter how deep their employer’s pockets.

If you have been unjustly fired from your job, you have rights and options. Your attorney is your best defense and your best advocate, dedicated to protecting and fighting for your interests.

Every wrongful termination case is different. The specifics will depend on the facts of your case.  At Harlan Law, you get personalized attention and counsel from the moment you call our firm’s office. We work closely with our clients to hold employers responsible for their misconduct. We put in the time to meticulously investigate your case because we know what your career means to you. Here, you’re family. And we pride ourselves on taking care of family.

Call us at (619) 870-0802 today to get started on your case.

Wrongful Termination and Employee Protections in California

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that oversees employee protection laws and handles complaints across all 50 states. But California law goes even further to protect employees compared to federal law.

Historically, California has provided some of the strongest employee protections in the country. California was ahead of many states in extending legal protections to LGBTQA+ employees, before the Supreme Court’s recent decision made it nationwide. The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) enforces the state’s labor code, while the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) handles state employment complaints.

That’s why it’s important to find a local employment lawyer near you. Your strongest defense is someone who’s experienced in California employment law specifically.

California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA)

In 2004, California passed the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA). This allows any private citizen to pursue fines against their employer for violating state employment laws.

That means you have the right to take legal action to hold your employer responsible for violations of California’s state labor code.

Any current or former employee can bring an action against their employer for themselves or any other co-worker. Any law that doesn’t specify a penalty will be charged $100 per employee per violation per pay period. Any additional violations of the same law will be charged $200. If you’ve experienced multiple incidents of harassment over a long period of time, those fines could add up quickly. As the plaintiff, you get 25% of the total.

As a California employee, you have options. Call our office today at (619) 870-0802 for a free, no-risk consultation with an experienced California employment lawyer today.

What Is Retaliation in the Workplace?

Retaliation happens when your employer takes an “adverse action” against you for something that is protected under the law. Retaliation can also happen in violation of public policy.

A court would consider your employer’s actions to be adverse if:

  • The action was “material” enough to affect a term or condition of your employment, and
  • You can establish a causal link between your protected activity and the action.

Wrongful termination is a type of retaliation. But retaliation doesn’t always mean getting fired. Your employer could retaliate against you in different ways, some more subtle than others.

Retaliation in the workplace is all too common. Complaints involving retaliation can end up with costly judgments against employers who are found responsible.

Acts of employer retaliation could include:

  • Demoting you or passing you over for promotions
  • Refusing to give you important projects or better shifts
  • Cutting your hours or giving you a problematic schedule
  • Failing to include you in important communications
  • Sidelining you or assigning you to menial tasks
  • Tolerating or encouraging acts of bullying or harassment against you
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Making your job difficult or impossible to perform
  • Pushing you out so that you retire or resign
  • Spreading false information or rumors about you in the office
  • Firing you (wrongful termination)

In addition to violations against public policy, it’s also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you based on any state or federal law. That means you could have a case against your employer if they retaliate against you for exercising your legal rights. This includes:

  • Wage and hour laws
  • Family and medical leave laws
  • Veteran and armed service member rights

The law takes workplace retaliation seriously because this type of misconduct can have major effects on an employee’s life and career. California law actually requires employers to have a retaliation prevention policy and encourages zero tolerance for retaliation incidents.

Your employer should take the following steps to prevent retaliation at work:

  • Have an anti-retaliation policy that’s visible and accessible to all employees
  • Communicate the policy to employees along with the process for reporting retaliation
  • Encourage all employees to report any complaints they may have
  • Take complaints seriously and respond to them appropriately
  • Investigate complaints properly and take corrective action
  • Train managers and other employees on how to respond to protected activities
  • Remind supervisors that they will face consequences for retaliation
  • Watch for potential retaliation against any employees who report misconduct
  • Stop retaliation from happening or escalating whenever possible

Your employer could be held responsible for failing to prevent or respond to retaliation, especially if they knew or should have known about it. 

Retaliation Protections for Immigrants in California

California offers additional immigration-related protections for workers. State Labor Code section 1019 makes it illegal for any employer to retaliate against an employee by using the immigration system. Under this law, it’s unlawful for your employer to take any of the following actions against you in retaliation for exercising your legal rights:

  • Requesting more immigration documents than required by federal immigration law
  • Refusing to accept immigration documents that appear to be genuine
  • Using the federal E-Verify system to check on your immigration status when it’s not required or authorized under the law
  • Threatening to file or filing a false police report to create immigration issues
  • Threatening to contact or contacting immigration authorities

The consequences of workplace retaliation are real, not just for your paycheck but for your mental health, too. Most of us depend on our jobs to provide for ourselves and our families. To many of us, our jobs are more than just a livelihood but a career that we’re passionate about. It’s devastating to have all of that threatened by a coworker or superior’s misconduct.

Fortunately, the law is on your side. If you’re experiencing retaliation at work, call (619) 870-0802 right away to ask a lawyer about your legal options.

Retaliation for Reporting OSHA Violations in the Workplace

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety on a national level. You have a legal right to report violations of the law to OSHA.

Although the OSHA reporting procedure is confidential, your employer may find out some other way that you filed the report, or simply believe that you did. It would be illegal for your employer to take any action against you in retaliation for filing a report.

Because so many federal, state, and local laws cover employment – and so many government agencies are involved in overseeing them – you might have multiple legal options and requirements for moving forward with a claim. After a detailed factual analysis of your case, a local employment lawyer can help guide you to your best chance at success.

What Are My Rights as a Whistleblower?

Whistleblower laws add another level of protection against retaliation in the workplace. A whistleblower is somebody who reports workplace actions or conditions that they believe to be unsafe, unlawful, or against public policy.

As a whistleblower, you may have witnessed coworkers or superiors at your company:

  • Overlooking quality checks meant for safety
  • Hiring with a bias, either explicitly or as a pattern
  • Failing to take seriously or investigate complaints of misconduct
  • Protecting employees accused of misconduct and punishing those who complain
  • Putting employees at risk with unsafe working conditions
  • Engaging in illegal business practices for the sake of profit
  • Carrying out any other type of illegal behavior or misconduct

You may have tried bringing up your concerns with your manager or human resources. You may have even brought a complaint with the proper government agency. Maybe your concerns were dismissed, allowing the misconduct to continue. Or worse, maybe you were punished for sounding the alarm, by getting demoted, fewer shifts, or fired.

As long as you make your complaint in good faith (i.e., you genuinely believe you’ve perceived illegal activity), you are protected as a whistleblower.

The government wants to encourage whistleblowers to speak up for the sake and safety of everyone – employees and consumers alike. Whistleblowers have been key in uncovering some of the worst cases of employer misconduct in United States history. Whistleblower testimony has unseated misbehaving executives and removed dangerous products from the market. It’s no exaggeration to say that whistleblowers literally save lives.

Whistleblowers are protected whether they report their company’s illegal actions through an internal complaint procedure or a government agency with oversight.

Whistleblower Protections Under California Labor Code Section 1102.5

Whistleblowers in California are protected by Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code. Under this state law, employers cannot take any action or make any policy or rule that stops an employee from reporting misconduct. Employers are also forbidden from preventing their workers from cooperating with an investigation.

At first, whistleblower laws only protected employees who complained to state or federal government agencies. In 2014, California law extended that protection to any employee who complains of misconduct using their company’s internal procedures. 

California’s whistleblower protections are broader than in any other state. If your employer is found guilty of retaliation in California, they could pay penalties up to $10,000 per violation, plus back pay, reinstatement of your position and benefits, and damages.

You have several different legal options when facing retaliation or wrongful termination. Talk to an employment lawyer about your specific situation to determine your best way forward.

How Do I Prove Wrongful Termination?

Some wrongful termination cases are more straightforward than others. For example, breach of contract cases where you get fired in violation of the terms of your employment contract.

But other cases may be more difficult to prove. Most employers won’t straight out say that they’re demoting or firing you because of discriminatory or illegal reasons. In fact, some employers may try to blame you with false accusations or inaccurate performance reports. They may try to cover their tracks by deleting records of emails or other documents. They may lock you out of your own employee accounts so that you’re unable to get access.

Your lawyer can help you investigate and gather evidence to support your case. But it’s good to start thinking of evidence as soon as possible. And it’s always best to record everything you can in writing, especially if you bring up complaints inside your company.

Evidence proving wrongful termination could include:

  • Written statements, communications, or documents
  • Performance reports that prove your good employment record
  • Verbal statements confirmed by witness testimony
  • Circumstantial evidence, such as patterns of behavior or bias
  • Comparisons to how other employees are treated at the office
  • Any reports you filed to supervisors, HR, or government agencies
  • Whether the adverse action was taken shortly after the protected activity
  • Any evidence or testimony that contradicts your employer’s version of events
  • Evidence that your employer failed to follow their own anti-retaliation policies, such as failing to carry out an investigation into misconduct

Whenever you can, keep a written log of any incidents – especially if they involve verbal exchanges or microaggression that are otherwise difficult to track and prove. The evidence will be much more compelling if you can show examples of specific behavior. Make sure to keep copies of proof somewhere other than your work computer or email.

If you can, request a copy of your personnel file and any performance reports on your record.

Proving motive is one of the hardest parts of wrongful termination and retaliation cases. If you’re an at-will employee, your employer could simply point to any other legitimate motive for their actions. The more actual evidence you have to establish your side of the story, the better. 

Hiring a Wrongful Termination Lawyer

When dealing with a wrongful termination case, you have to find a dedicated lawyer whose judgment you can trust. Employment cases are fact-specific. Their outcome depends on the best case you can put forward. A strong, experienced advocate is your best chance at success.

At Harlan Law, we prepare all of our cases as if they will go to court. This shows your employer that you are willing to go all the way to fight for your rights. Most employers don’t want a long and costly court case that will expose their misconduct on the public record. The stronger your case is from the beginning, the more likely your employer is to negotiate a settlement.

Hiring a lawyer for your retaliation or wrongful termination case helps you twofold:

  • You have a much higher chance at proving your case, and
  • You are much more likely to recover greater damages.

You shouldn’t agree to sign anything from your employer until you’ve spoken to a lawyer.

Damages in Wrongful Termination Cases

Although monetary compensation can only do so much, damages are the law’s way of “making you whole” – as if the injustice against you never happened. In cases where a company’s misbehavior is especially bad, a court may award punitive damages to punish your employer. Punitive damages are meant to deter bad behavior.

Gathering evidence in support of your case is important not just for proving your claim but also for determining the amount of damages you get. You have to show the court that you suffered actual losses as a direct result of the misconduct – and prove the amount.

Damages for retaliation or wrongful termination could include:

  • Lost pay, earnings, unpaid wages, overtime, or any other compensation
  • Cost and value of lost benefits such as health and dental insurance, pensions, retirement plans, stock options, profit-sharing arrangements
  • The cost of looking for a new job
  • Emotional distress or “pain and suffering” damages could apply in the most severe cases of harassment, bullying, or misconduct
  • Punitive damages are usually up to a jury. You could recover punitive damages if you can show the misconduct to be oppressive, fraudulent, or malicious. The amount can vary based on the severity of the misconduct.
  • In some cases, you could even recover attorney’s fees from your employer. At Harlan Law, we take our cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us until we recover damages for you.

The more proof you have, the stronger your case, the more likely you will be successful on your claims – and the more likely your employer is to settle.

Wrongful Termination and Retaliation Lawsuit Settlements

Some wrongful termination and retaliation cases go to court. But some of them end in settlements negotiated between you and your employer.

You should always have an experienced employment lawyer on your side when negotiating a settlement with your company.  Your lawyer can help set your expectations based on the strength of your case. They can advise you on when to hold out and when to accept. You should never sign a settlement offer without first talking to an attorney. In many cases, you could end up with a much better deal than the initial settlement offer.

Not all settlement terms are based on money. You could also get reinstatement as a part of your settlement, where your employer must give you back your job or a good reference. 

What you ask for in a settlement negotiation depends on the kind of outcome you want. It’s important to find a lawyer who listens to you and your goals. At Harlan Law, you get personalized attention from the moment you call. You won’t get lost in the shuffle at our firm.

Although it’s natural to be emotional when your career is on the line, it’s important to look at your case from an objective point of view. Our law firm is dedicated to providing you the best counsel and advice for your specific situation. We are here to listen.

Jordan Harlan has a history of excellent client ratings and industry awards. Our top-rated San Diego employment law firm has dedicated years to protecting workers’ rights. Call the offices of Harlan Law now at (619) 870-0802 for a free, no-risk consultation of your case.

About Harlan Law

Our San Diego law firm is dedicated to providing the best advocacy possible for clients nationwide. Call our experienced personal injury and employment lawyers today at 619.870.0802 for your first free consultation.

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“Jordon Harlan at Harlan Law, PC, earns a 5-star evaluation from me. I was in an accident and suffered injuries. It was difficult to deal with the insurance company to even obtain coverage for basic medical expenses. Jordon listened to my concerns and wishes and took care of everything. He obtained a settlement that I was pleased with and without the necessity of going to court. I hope not to be in similar circumstances in the future but if that were the case, Harlan Law is who I would contact immediately. Jordon Harlan has my full confidence.”

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