Average Settlement for Wrongful Termination in California
  • Sep 19, 2022

Average Settlement for Wrongful Termination in California

Calculating Wrongful Termination Settlements in California: What’s the Average?

Every year, about two million “at will” workers in the United States get fired or laid off. The American Civil Liberties Union and other experts believe that almost half of these workers are fired or laid off unlawfully.

If you suspect that you recently laid off or terminated wrongfully, you may be searching for more information on what you could receive in legal claim. Since each wrongful termination case is unique, it is not possible to calculate an average settlement for such cases in California. Some cases can settle for around $10,000, while others may result in multimillion dollar settlements.

The best way to figure out how much you could receive in recovery for your specific situation is to get in touch with a wrongful termination or employment attorney who can review the details of your case and make an estimate. Most wrongful termination settlements in California are valued anywhere between $5,000-$90,000.  Various factors can affect how much an employee who was wrongfully terminated can receive, including:

  • Employee’s salary
  • Employee’s skillset
  • Employer conduct

If you have recently lost your job and suspect that you may have a wrongful termination claim, we recommend that you contact an experienced wrongful termination or employment lawyer as soon as possible.

How Do I Prove Wrongful Termination in California?

Many workers believe that wrongful termination is the same as unfair dismissal, however, this is not necessarily true. In order to qualify for a wrongful termination claim, an employee must be fired or laid off for an illegal cause.

California is an at-will employment state, meaning that employers can generally discharge their employees for no reason or cause. They cannot, however, fire or lay off a worker for an unlawful reason. For instance, employers cannot fire workers due to their being a part of a protected class, such as:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy status
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Citizenship status

Furthermore, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits workplace harassment and employment discrimination. Employers cannot retaliate against employees who oppose discrimination or harassment; file a complaint involving discrimination or harassment; assist in any investigation or lawsuit involving discrimination or harassment.

Employers in California are also prohibited from firing employees for lawful actions that they participate in away from the office, including joining labor unions or participating in labor union activities.

Workers can sue California employers for wrongful termination even if they were not laid off or fired. This is known as “constructive wrongful termination,” which occurs when an employer makes working conditions so unbearable that employees have no option but to quit.

State law requires that workers mitigate their damages after being wrongfully discharged. This means that workers who have been terminated have a legal duty to make reasonable efforts in finding a new job following the dismissal. If workers do not uphold this duty, the damages they could receive from a successful wrongful termination claim may be reduced.

california wrongful termination charge statistics

Example Cases

The following are some examples of wrongful termination cases that LawLinq’s member attorneys have handled successfully:

  • Pregnancy Discrimination Case: This person was promised her job would be reinstated following her maternity leave. When she informed the company that she was ready to return, they told her that her position was eliminated- 1 week prior to the conclusion of her leave. Soon after she found out that this was not true as the employer had given her position to a young male. She sued them and received compensatory damages. It was determined that the employer cannot legally fire this employee because pregnancy is among the protected classes covered by state law.
  • Sexual Harassment Case: The person of the company consistently harassed two employees based on the clothing they wore to work. They filed a complaint with Human Resources, but the department did nothing. The harassment continued, which led to constructive termination from their positions. They could no longer stand the workplace conditions. The employees sued for sexual harassment and were awarded compensatory damages. Employees in California can sue their employers for constructive wrongful termination if they are forced to leave due to poor working conditions. In this case, these employees refused to work while being subjected to continual harassment.
  • Whistleblower Case: This person reported age discrimination within their company to Human Resources. They noticed that certain older individuals were not getting promotions even when they were more qualified than younger employees who were receiving promotions. The plaintiff was terminated shortly after. They sued and settled for compensatory damages and future earnings. In California, employers cannot fire employees for reporting unlawful activities such as age discrimination in the workplace. Whistleblower Termination occurs when an employer discharges an employee for reporting potentially illegal actions by the employer to a government or law enforcement agency.

Other Grounds for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in California

In addition to harassment, discrimination, and whistleblower retaliation, there are other unlawful reasons to terminate an employee under both state and federal law. In California, an employer cannot discharge employees for:

  • Refusing to assist the employer in violating the law
  • Filing a worker’s compensation claim
  • Joining/participating in labor union activities
  • Protected political activities and speech
  • Making complaints about wages or work hours
  • Taking family medical leave
  • Serving on a jury

You may also have a wrongful termination claim if you were part of a mass layoff with less than sixty days of notice. California’s WARN Act requires employers to give employees sixty days of notice before closing a facility, relocating a facility, or conducting a layoff of fifty or more employees.

Note that legal contracts regarding employment do not have to be in writing. Some wrongful termination cases result from the violation of an “implied” contract, or an agreement understood by both the employer and the employee even if they have not formally signed a contract. Employers can create implied contracts not to discharge an employee without good case by listing specific reasons why employees may be fired in an employee handbook and or by telling a worker that their job is safe as long as they do not violate company policy.

How Are Wrongful Termination Damages Calculated in California?

Workers who have been wrongfully terminated in the state of California can recover legal damages, which cover all the damages caused by the termination. Legal damages in wrongful termination can vary but they typically include

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits (health, life, dental, and vision insurance)
  • Medical expenses
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Cost of job search
  • Emotional distress

Job reinstatement may also be included as a remedy; however, this is often not possible due to termination of the role or hostile working conditions.

Note that there are limits to the compensatory and punitive damages awarded in your case based on the size of your employer. Under state law, employers with:

If you win a wrongful termination case, you receive compensation. Your employer is obligated to pay your damages as well as your attorneys’ fees. Employment and labor lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they often take a percentage of what you are awarded, generally anywhere between 33-40%.

Employment and labor law cases typically produce more conservative settlement amounts than other case types since the damages can be clearly defined. Your back pay is the main determinant of what you receive in recovery. For instance, if you make $60,000 and did not work for a year, then you are eligible to receive $60,000 in back pay.

Quantifying your damages requires calculating your entire annual compensation from your former position, including annual salary, bonuses, future raises, lost benefits. This amount is multiplied by the sum of the number of years you have been unemployed and the number of years you can expect to remain unemployed. Age, job type, education level, work experience and other factors are then considered when determining the final settlement amount.

Can You Get Punitive Damages for Wrongful Termination in California?

If the employer was acting especially egregiously, then it is possible that the employee’s case can qualify for punitive damages. Punitive damages apply in cases where the employer acted with oppression, fraud, or malice. These damages are more common in wrongful termination cases involving discrimination or harassment.

When punitive damages are awarded, they are usually much higher than compensatory damages, as this type of damage is awarded to both punish the employer for egregious wrongdoing and to deter others from acting with similar conduct. Cases that are eligible for punitive damages typically involve situations where the employer acted maliciously or recklessly during the time of employment.

punitive damages for wrongful termination california

What’s the Most You Can Get for Wrongful Termination in California?

While multimillion awards are possible, it is crucial to keep in mind that federal laws limit the amount of punitive and compensatory damages awarded in cases involving wrongful termination. They cannot exceed $50,000 – $300,000, depending on the number of employees working for the employer’s business. The larger the employer, the higher the settlement reward.

What Evidence Is Needed for My Case?

You should obtain and preserve all written documents between you and your employer regarding your termination and job performance prior to the discharge. Your past performance reviews and your termination letter are some of the documents you should gather if you are pursuing a wrongful termination case. Any of the following can be used in court to demonstrate that you were fired unlawfully:

  • Notes
  • Emails
  • Employment contracts
  • Resumes
  • Workplace policies
  • Job evaluations
  • Text messages
  • Voicemails
  • Memos
  • Social media posts
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Company employment data
  • Oral conversations

Oral conversations can also serve as important evidence in a wrongful termination suit. Conversations about your termination, job performance, job expectations or similar discussions could all be relevant under California state law. You should try to keep written records of these conversations that designate the:

  • date,
  • location, and
  • all participants in these conversations.

This is vital information that can strengthen your claim. Ultimately, you should contact a reputable California employment attorney as they can assist you in gathering the most important evidence for your case. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations for wrongful termination claims can range from 180 days to three years to the date you were terminated. Your attorney can make sure that you meet all deadlines to file your wrongful termination claim.

What are the Odds of Winning a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in California?

In order to win a wrongful termination case, you must be able to prove that you were laid off or fired for unlawful reasons. Discrimination, harassment, and breach of contract are common reasons why employees have been terminated illegally by former employers.

The odds of you receiving the maximum award possible increase greatly when you work with a labor or employment attorney. At the very least, pursuing a suit can give you a much higher amount in recovery than filing a claim. Claimants who are represented by legal counsel tend to be awarded larger settlements than claimants who try to handle their cases alone.

Wrongful termination cases are regularly settled outside of court. Employers are often willing to settle to avoid a trial. A labor or employment lawyer can help you determine if settling outside of court maximizes what you could receive in recovery.

Is a Wrongful Termination Suit Worth It?

Pursuing a wrongful termination suit is certainly worth it. Filing a suit shows that you are serious about your claim, likely resulting in a higher settlement amount. If you reside in the Los Angeles County area and suspect that you were recently fired or laid off for an unlawful reason, consider contacting LawLinq today. We can help connect you with reputable employment law attorneys with years of experience in cases just like yours, at no additional cost.

Searching for a new job today can be challenging and the last thing you want to worry about is searching for an attorney at the same time. Luckily, you can leave the legal search to LawLinq. Our employment and labor attorneys are California State Bar-certified and have extensive experience in labor and employment law.

Over the years, LawLinq’s member attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for clients throughout the LA County area. Through a quick, no-obligation consultation, LawLinq can connect you with a reputable Los Angeles employment attorney today. Please give us a call or visit our website and fill out an online case evaluation.

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