California, like the other states, is an at-will employment state. Basically, this means that either party can vacate an employment contract at any time, for nearly whatever reason and for no reason whatsoever. However, your employer cannot fire you for unlawful reasons.
If an employer fires you for unlawful reasons, California and federal laws allow you to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against them. The purpose of this kind of lawsuit is to recover economic, compensatory and punitive damages that may arise from your dismissal. But like any legal challenge, you do not have the free hand to file your lawsuit at your convenience. You must file your lawsuit within a specific statute of limitations period.
Understanding wrongful termination
Basically, termination becomes wrongful if you are fired or laid off for unlawful reasons such as your age, gender, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics. Wrongful termination based on unlawful retaliation can also happen if you are dismissed for exercising your rights like whistleblowing or taking legally-protected leave from your job.
So how much time do you have to sue for wrongful termination?
You can pursue your employer for wrongful termination either at the state and/or federal level under certain circumstances. If you opt to pursue your case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), then you will typically have 180 days from the date of your unlawful dismissal to file a complaint. However, if the specific claim is also covered by state anti-discrimination laws, then this deadline may be extended to 300 days.
You can also file a claim with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In this case, you will have up to three years to file your wrongful termination claim.
Protecting your interests
Being unlawfully dismissed from your job can be disheartening, to say the least. Learning more about California and federal employment laws can help you protect your rights and interests when suing for unlawful dismissal.