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March 8, 2024

How to Win a Wrongful Termination Case in California

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: One of the best ways to win a wrongful termination case in California is to hire a licensed wrongful termination attorney. They can often identify if you have a valid case quickly and generally work on a contingency fee basis so you don’t have to pay them unless they win your case.

7 Steps to Take to Win a Wrongful Termination Case in California

When pursuing a wrongful termination case in California, there are several key things you should consider focusing on to increase your chances of winning:

  1. Document everything: Thorough documentation is crucial in a wrongful termination case. Keep detailed records of all communications, incidents, and actions leading up to and following your termination. This includes emails, memos, performance reviews, witness statements, and any other relevant evidence.
  2. Follow company policies and procedures: Make sure you followed all company policies and procedures during your employment. If your termination violated established protocols or your employee handbook, this can strengthen your case.
  3. Identify the true reason for termination: You must be able to demonstrate that the stated reason for your termination was merely a pretext and that the real reason was unlawful, such as discrimination, retaliation, or violation of public policy.
  4. Establish a pattern of mistreatment: If you can show a pattern of mistreatment or discrimination by your employer, it can support your claim of wrongful termination. Document any instances of harassment, unfair treatment, or disparate treatment compared to other employees.
  5. File administrative complaints promptly: In California, you must file a complaint with the appropriate administrative agency, such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), within the required time limits, which are usually within one year of the termination.
  6. Preserve all evidence: Don’t destroy or discard any physical or electronic evidence related to your employment and termination. This includes emails, text messages, voice recordings, documents, and any other relevant materials.
  7. Consult an experienced employment law attorney: Having a skilled employment law attorney on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process, build a strong case, and represent you effectively in court or during settlement negotiations.

By focusing on these key areas and building a solid case with strong evidence and legal representation, you can increase your chances of prevailing in a wrongful termination lawsuit in California.

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What are the Odds of Winning a Wrongful Termination Case?

The success rate of wrongful termination claims can vary, but according to a source, less than half of claimants (43%) received an out-of-court settlement or a court award in their wrongful termination case (1).

Having legal representation significantly increases the chances of a successful outcome, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of claimants who hired lawyers receiving a settlement or award, compared to less than one-third (30%) of those who pursued claims on their own (2).

It’s important to note that each case is unique and the outcome can depend on many factors, including the merits of the case and the quality of the evidence presented.

Wrongful Termination Case Evaluator

Wondering if you might have a potential wrongful termination case? Use our online quiz to see if you have a potential case in 90 seconds or less.

What You May Need to Prove to Win Your Case

Winning a wrongful termination case in California can be complex, as there are various grounds on which an employee can claim wrongful termination. Here are some common ways an employee may prevail in a wrongful termination lawsuit in California:

  • Discrimination: If an employee can prove that they were fired due to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or other protected characteristics, they may have a valid claim for wrongful termination based on discrimination.
  • Retaliation: Employees in California are protected from retaliation for engaging in protected activities, such as reporting violations of law, whistleblowing, or filing a complaint for discrimination or harassment. If an employee can show that they were fired in retaliation for such activities, they may have a wrongful termination claim.
  • Breach of Contract: If an employee has an employment contract that specifies the terms of their employment, including the grounds for termination, and the employer breached that contract by firing the employee without cause or proper notice, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination based on breach of contract.
  • Violation of Public Policy: In California, employees cannot be terminated for refusing to violate a law or for exercising a legal right or privilege. If an employee is fired for such reasons, they may have a claim for wrongful termination based on violation of public policy.
  • Violation of Labor Laws: California has various labor laws that protect employees, such as laws regarding wage and hour regulations, family and medical leave, and workplace safety. If an employee is fired for asserting their rights under these laws or for engaging in protected activities related to these laws, they may have a claim for wrongful termination.
  • Constructive Discharge: In some cases, an employee may resign due to intolerable working conditions created by the employer, such as harassment, discrimination, or other unlawful practices. If the employee can show that a reasonable person in their position would have felt compelled to resign, they may be able to claim constructive discharge, which is treated as a wrongful termination.

It’s important to note that the specific circumstances and evidence in each case will determine the likelihood of success in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Consulting with an experienced employment law attorney is recommended to evaluate the merits of a potential wrongful termination claim in California.

Steps to Consider Immediately After Termination

  1. Request a written statement from your employer detailing the reason for your termination.
  2. Collect and preserve all relevant employment documents, such as your employment contract, employee handbook, performance reviews, and any correspondence or emails related to your termination.
  3. Document the events leading up to your termination, including any instances of discrimination, retaliation, or policy violations by your employer.

Important Filing Information

  1. If you believe you were terminated due to discrimination or retaliation, file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  2. If your termination involved wage and hour violations or other labor law issues, file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or the U.S. Department of Labor.

Important Information About a Wrongful Termination Case Process & Timeline

Consulting with an Employment Law Attorney

  • It’s important to find an experienced wrongful termination attorney.
  • When you find one, provide your attorney with all relevant documentation and information about your case.
  • Discuss the merits of your case and the potential legal strategies you may be able to implement.

Sending a demand letter

  • Your attorney may send a demand letter to your former employer, outlining the legal claims and demanding compensation or reinstatement.
  • This letter serves as a formal notice of your intent to file a lawsuit if the matter is not resolved.

File a lawsuit (if necessary):

  • If your former employer does not respond satisfactorily to the demand letter, your attorney may file a wrongful termination lawsuit in the appropriate state or federal court.
  • The lawsuit will outline the specific legal claims and the damages you are seeking.

Discovery and pre-trial proceedings:

  • During this phase, both parties will exchange relevant information and evidence through depositions, document requests, and interrogatories.
  • Your attorney will work to build a strong case and gather evidence to support your claims.

Settlement negotiations or trial:

  • Many wrongful termination cases are resolved through settlement negotiations before going to trial.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case will proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will determine the outcome based on the evidence presented.

Potential appeals:

  • If you or your former employer is unsatisfied with the trial outcome, either party may file an appeal to a higher court.

*It’s important to note that wrongful termination cases can be complex and time-consuming, and the process may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Having an experienced employment law attorney by your side can greatly increase your chances of success and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Connect with a Wrongful Termination Attorney

Looking for a wrongful termination attorney for help with your potential case? Contact LawLinq to connect with some of the best wrongful termination attorneys in the state. All initial consultations are free.


  1. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Wrongful termination: Will I get a settlement or award?
  2. Guerin, L. (2022, September 16). Wrongful termination claims: How much can I expect in compensation, and what will a lawyer cost? Nolo.
About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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