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San Diego Wrongful Termination Attorney

If you believe you’ve been wrongfully fired from your job in San Diego, it’s crucial to contact an experienced employment lawyer to understand your rights and options.

Wrongful termination refers to being fired illegally, whether due to discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, or other violations of employment laws. This guide from the San Diego wrongful termination attorneys at the Hamparyan Law Firm covers key issues like:

  • At-will employment exceptions
  • Signs your firing may be wrongful
  • Steps to take after termination
  • Available compensation
  • How a lawyer can build your claim.

For legal advice on your particular wrongful termination, don’t hesitate to call Hamparyan Law Firm at (619) 550-1355. We provide a free case review from a top San Diego employment attorney.

Understanding At-Will Employment in California

California is an “at-will” employment state. This means that generally, employers can terminate workers at any time without having to establish “just cause” for the firing. However, there are important exceptions where firings are still illegal. These include:

Violations of Public Policy

It is wrongful termination if you were fired for complying with an important public policy. Examples include:

  • Missing work to serve jury duty
  • Taking leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Making workplace safety or ethics complaints.

Breach of Employment Contract

If you have an employment contract promising job security for a certain period, firing you early violates that agreement. This also applies if personnel policies or handbooks imply certain employment protections.

Discrimination and Harassment

It is illegal termination if you were fired based on protected characteristics like race, gender, disability, age over 40, or sexual orientation.


Employers cannot terminate you for making legal complaints about issues like discrimination, harassment, wage violations, unsafe working conditions, and the like. This would constitute retaliation.

While at-will employment does allow most firings without cause, these exceptions make many terminations clearly wrongful under California law. If you’re uncertain about the lawfulness of your firing, please consult for free with one of our wrongful termination attorneys.

5 Signs Your Termination May Be Wrongful

Here are key red flags that can indicate your firing violates state or federal law:

1. No Documented Performance Issues

If you received positive reviews and were never disciplined for misconduct or poor work, lack of cause for the termination is suspicious.

2. Replaced by Someone Outside Protected Class

For example, being replaced by someone much younger, of another race, or of another gender hints at possible discrimination.

3. Complaints Preceded Termination

If you were fired soon after making legal complaints about the workplace, you may have experienced employer retaliation.

4. Explicit Biased Comments

An employer’s discriminatory motive can show in their verbal harassment about your protected characteristic like disability, gender, or age.

5. Only Person Affected by Policy

Look out for situations where your employer singles you out for discipline over a new policy that nobody else follows. This may be a pretext for firing.

While these factors raise red flags, an experienced lawyer’s investigation typically uncovers even more evidence. Don’t assume you have no case without consulting counsel.

Steps to Take After You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated

The actions you take in the days and weeks following wrongful termination are critical. Key steps include:

1. Gathering Evidence

  • Get copies of all employment records like reviews, discipline reports, and communications.
  • Secure documentation showing your good performance.
  • Collect witness statements.
  • Keep records of all job search efforts and effects on your finances.

2. Filing a Complaint with the DFEH or EEOC

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the state agency in California concerned with employee rights. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal counterpart. These agencies have a few jurisdiction differences – for example, the EEOC oversees employers with 15 or more workers, while the DFEH can deal with smaller companies.

To understand the best course of action for your complaint, you can consult with our law office for free.

3. Contact a Wrongful Termination Lawyer

An employment attorney can evaluate your case, determine which claims apply, negotiate with your prior employer, and file a lawsuit in court if necessary.

Available Compensation in Wrongful Termination Cases

Remedies available through wrongful termination lawsuits may include:

Lost Income and Benefits

This covers the wages and other compensation you lost due to being fired. It also accounts for losses continuing into the future.

Emotional Distress Damages

Money can compensate for the mental anguish you suffered after losing a job and source of income.


The court can order that you get your job back if desired. However, the negative atmosphere may make it more preferable to find new employment.

Attorney Fees

If you win your case, the employer must pay your lawyers reasonable attorneys fees and litigation costs.

Punitive Damages

If the court finds the company acted with malice or “conscious disregard” for your rights, punitive damages punish and deter the employer.

San Diego employees commonly ask how much in total they could receive in a successful wrongful termination case. The total value depends on your circumstances, but several hundred thousand dollars or more is possible in many cases. A lawyer can help maximize your payout by examining the full extent of your loss and negotiating effectively for compensation.

How Can an Attorney Prove Your Claim and Negotiate a Settlement?

Employment lawyers have substantial experience building strong wrongful termination cases by:

Tracking Employer Wrongdoing

Lawyers present documented evidence of illegal employment practices leading up to and during termination proceedings.

Conducting In-Depth Investigations

Beyond just gathering proof, our lawyers use forensic analysis of electronic evidence, comprehensive document review, and extensive witness interviews to uncover violations.

Calculating Damages

Attorneys work with experts to fully quantify past and future income losses, effects on benefits, and less-tangible losses like emotional distress.

Negotiating Favorable Settlements

The vast majority of cases settle out of court. Lawyers negotiate firmly with employers, backed by a willingness to go to trial. Typically, employers prefer to settle rather than risk a long, costly trial in court.

Litigating in Court When Needed

If employers refuse reasonable agreements, lawyers file lawsuits and argue cases before judges and juries. Few attorneys have more litigation experience than Hamparyan.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Termination in California

What are some examples of wrongful termination in violation of employment law?

Some common examples include:

  • Firing someone for taking leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a new child or sick family member
  • Terminating an employee for refusing to carry out an unethical or illegal instruction from a supervisor
  • Letting someone go for reporting safety issues like sexual harassment or faulty equipment to government agencies
  • Punishing staff for serving on a jury when called for this civic duty.

Can I sue for wrongful termination if I was an at-will employee?

Yes. Even if you worked in an at-will capacity without an employment contract, a wrongful dismissal lawsuit remains possible. California law still prohibits firings based on discrimination by race, gender, age over 40, disability, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. Employers also cannot retaliate against workers who file legal complaints or exercise public policy rights.

Consult an attorney to determine whether grounds exist to pursue wrongful termination damages, even if you were an at-will personnel. Don’t assume no options exist.

What proof do I need to show my wrongful termination based on discrimination?

You would need to demonstrate that unfair treatment or decisions based on protected characteristics ultimately led to your illegal firing. Useful evidence include:

  • Written performance reviews or disciplinary records showing positive feedback about you, until a workplace change brought issues
  • Favorable work history over many years suddenly changed by a boss who verbally harassed you over age, gender expression, pregnancy, or other protected trait
  • Higher performance metrics compared to peers outside protected class
  • Notes from meetings or overheard comments evidencing biased attitudes
  • Emails or witnesses confirming negative changes after your employer learned about your disability, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic
  • Records of someone replacing you who lacks your protected trait (much younger, different race or gender, etc.).

Is it illegal for my employer to fire me for taking medical leave?

Yes, that likely constitutes wrongful dismissal. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California’s Family Rights Act protect eligible workers from retaliation for taking permitted medical leave. Firing someone for using this entitled time off is illegal.

If an employer provides false justifications for letting you go soon after requesting or taking protected leave, that often shows pretext for wrongful discharge in violation of leave rights. Consult an attorney to file claims.

How long do I have to file a claim with the EEOC after being fired under California law?

In California, you generally have 180 calendar days to file a charge with the EEOC, starting from the date of wrongful firing. This time limit can extend to 300 days if a state or local law applies to your case. An attorney can handle EEOC claims and advise on what deadlines you need to meet in your claim.

How long do I have to file a wrongful termination claim in California?

If you’re seeking to file with the California DFEH instead of the federal EEOC, you must do so within one year of the termination date. Other claims have shorter deadlines, so don’t delay seeking legal advice.

How much does it cost to hire a wrongful termination lawyer?

With a contingency fee model, hiring an attorney should not cost you anything upfront. You only owe a percentage of damages recovered if your case succeeds. If no compensation results, you pay no fee at all.

Lawyers do incur costs like court filing expenses, deposition transcripts, expert witness fees, evidence processing, and more. However, they typically front these payments as well, and will only recoup them if you obtain a final settlement or award.

No recovery means you have no repayment responsibility for these costs either. This removes the risk of paying an attorney hourly regardless of outcome. Contingency agreements shift that financial risk onto lawyers, motivating hard work on your behalf.

What are my chances of winning a San Diego wrongful termination claim?

Every case has unique aspects affecting the chances of success. An experienced wrongful termination lawyer will evaluate the full details of your situation when considering wrongful discharge case viability. However, workers win reasonable compensation in many cases if they have skilled legal representation. Several factors boost odds, including:

  • Strong evidence of employer motive
  • Witness statements backing claims
  • Sparsely documented alleged “cause” for firing
  • Sympathetic plaintiff
  • Reputable attorney with litigation experience.

In Need of A San Diego Wrongful Termination Lawyer? Get Your Free Consultation with the Hamparyan Law Firm!

Getting unfairly fired can profoundly impact your finances, benefits, career prospects, and more. However, California law provides protections against wrongful termination based on discrimination, retaliation, contract violations, and other infringements on employee rights.

If you believe you have a wrongful termination claim in the San Diego area, contact the top-notch lawyers at the Hamparyan Law Firm. Call today at (619) 550-1355 to set up your free consultation. Our skilled attorneys are eager to listen and help.


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