Damages in a California Wrongful Termination Case

Submitted by Elizabeth on

If you have been working for wages in California, then you have more than likely been working in “at will” employment conditions. Essentially, “at will” employment means that employers can fire an employee for almost any reason they like. Likewise, employees can terminate their employment whenever they would like.

However, there are exceptions to firing at will. This is because some reasons for terminating employment are illegal, and wrongful termination may therefore be penalized if evidence shows that a breach of employment law has occurred. If you believe that you have been illegally fired, you may be able to obtain damages if you pursue a wrongful termination claim against your former employer.

What Are the Damages In a California Wrongful Termination Claim?

Damages refer to the amounts of financial compensation that can be claimed if an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated and they have sufficient proof that a breach of employment law has occurred. Damages are generally divided into two main categories:

  • economic damages; and
  • non-economic damages.

Economic damages are the easiest damages to calculate as they refer to the financial loss in dollars you have sustained as the result of being fired. Economic damages include such things as:

  • lost wages since the date of termination;
  • future lost wages calculated until you become employed again; 
  • lost employment benefits such as health insurance you gained while employed;
  • costs that are associated with searching for a new job;
  • attorneys’ fees.

Non-economic damages are harder to calculate. Oftentimes, non-economic damages may be determined by the judge if your case proceeds to a lawsuit and you go to trial, which makes it hard to determine in advance. 

Intangible or Non-Economic Damages 

Non-economic damages include compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the wrongful termination and punitive damages that might be imposed on the employer if malice was involved in the termination. An amount for pain and suffering may be partly calculated by including any medical expenses, including visits to a psychiatrist, related to emotional or physical harm caused by the termination experience itself.

Punitive damages are usually only imposed if it can be proven that the employer acted maliciously and the breach of employment law relating to wrongful termination was excessive. An employment lawyer can help you try and come up with amounts to claim in damages for both pain and suffering and punitive damages based on experience, but ultimately these amounts will probably be determined by the judge if you win the case. 

Punitive damages 

Punitive damages, in particular, are not just meant to compensate you, but are often imposed to “punish” the employer for exceptional wrongdoing and hopefully deter other employers from repeating this sort of offense.

Get Help With Your Wrongful Termination Claim  

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee illegally, often because of discrimination or because the employee has exposed wrongdoing or illegal practices by their employer. If this has happened to you, you have the right to file a claim of wrongful termination. Damages may be obtained if you have clear evidence that your employer breached employment law when you were fired.

Complete the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected with an independent, participating California wrongful termination attorney who subscribes to the website.  

Additional Resources


Add new comment