If you’re like many people, you’re not sure whether your employer can fire you if you file a workplace discrimination lawsuit – you’re not alone. In fact, the fear of being fired or treated unfairly after filing a complaint is often what keeps people from coming forward. However, you need to know that under California law, it’s illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for filing a workplace discrimination complaint or lawsuit. This guide explains.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit?
Your employer is not legally allowed to fire you for filing a workplace discrimination complaint or lawsuit. However, it’s important that you know your employer can fire you for other reasons – such as not showing up to work or poor performance.
But the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, prevents employers from retaliating against employees who:
- Oppose workplace harassment or disability discrimination
- Report disability discrimination or harassment in the workplace
- Help the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH, with an investigation or answer government questions
If employers do retaliate against workers who do any of these things, the employee may be eligible to file a complaint with DFEH or file a lawsuit against the employer.
Can Retaliation Amount to Wrongful Termination?
Sometimes employers do fire people for the wrong reasons – such as opposing or reporting discrimination in the workplace, or helping the government with an investigation. If an employer fires someone because of that person’s role in a complaint, lawsuit or investigation related to workplace discrimination, it may be a case of wrongful termination.
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires someone for an unlawful reason.
Related: Can I sue for wrongful termination?
If your employer wrongfully terminates you because you filed a complaint or filed a lawsuit, you could have another legal case on your hands. The first thing you should do is consult with a wrongful termination attorney who can evaluate your case. Your lawyer will help determine whether you have enough proof to take your employer to court for wrongful termination; if you do, you may choose to proceed with a lawsuit. It’s important that you know that the burden of proof lies with you. That means you have to prove that your employer wrongfully terminated you – your employer doesn’t have to prove that it’s innocent of terminating you unlawfully.
Remember, too, that employers can fire you even if you’re in the middle of filing a complaint or lawsuit if they have a valid reason to do so. For example, if you’re routinely late to work, you stop showing up, your performance is poor or you do anything else that makes you a less-desirable employee, your employer can use that reason to terminate you.
What to Do if Your Employer Fires You
If you believe your employer fired you because you filed a complaint or lawsuit, or because you opposed discrimination in the workplace or assisted the government with an investigation about workplace discrimination, you may want to contact an attorney. Your attorney will look at the facts of your case – and it’s up to you to provide documentation you have for any of your claims. Your attorney will want to know:
- When you filed the complaint or lawsuit
- Who else was involved
- Who knew about your involvement in the case
- What reason your employer gave for firing you
- What type of documentation you have that proves your employer wrongfully terminated you (such as good performance reviews or punched time-cards and pay stubs that prove you showed up to work)
- Any other relevant facts that could help your case
You can expect to spend a significant amount of time talking to your lawyer and providing documentation.
If you win your lawsuit, you could be entitled to damages – money that compensates you for the loss of your job, job reinstatement, benefit payouts or other compensation.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Being Fired for Filing a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit?
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated by your employer because you filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit (or even a complaint), supported someone who filed a complaint or lawsuit, or helped the government with an investigation about workplace discrimination, we may be able to help you. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney who understands what you’re going through.