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Winning a wrongful termination case just got a bit harder

By Thomas M Lee

In Harris v. City of Santa Monica, the California Supreme Court recently held in February 2013 that when an employer proves that it had a non-discriminatory reason to terminate an employee, even if the employee proves that discrimination was a substantial factor in the termination, the employee cannot be awarded damages, backpay, or reinstatement. However, the employee can still seek injunctive relief to stop the discriminatory practices and may be eligible for attorney's fees and costs.

What does this mean? It means that even if an employee proves that he/she was fired because of a discriminatory reason based on sex, harassment, disability, etc., and that was the substantial reason for the termination, all the employer has to show is that it had a legal reason to support the termination, such as frequent tardiness, violating the employer's rules or policies, or poor performance, and the employer will essentially win the lawsuit. In the end, getting injunctive relief, ie, a court order that the employer must follow the law and eliminate its discrminatory practices, and attorney's fees is of little importance to the employee when they cannot get any monetary damages, or their job back.

It is uncertain in the end how this case will affect an employee's wrongful termination against their former employer. However, now that the California Supreme Court has given employers an unfair significant advantage with the Harris case, it is imperative that a wrongfully terminated employees seek advice of experienced counsel upon termination.

An experienced attorney will immediately serve a written demand for a full copy of the employee's file which the employer must respond to within 21 days. If the employer does not respond and fails to produce the file, this can call into question any negative performance review magically found in the file after litigation begins. However, if the employer does respond and produces a file that does not contain any performance review or other writing to justify a termination, then this could help the employee prevail at trial. There are many other strategies that should also be used in order to win. To find out, contact Attorney Thomas M. Lee for a free consulation.

Please note that the information I am providing here in this entry, or in my website is NOT to be construed as legal advice nor is it meant to form an attorney-client relationship. For a free legal consultation by phone, please call or email me anytime.