In recent times, wrongful dismissal cases have become increasingly controversial. For instance, in the late 1980’s, a series of court of appeals decisions in the State of California gave a good number of employees grounds to recover damages on the basis of emotional distress. This was after it had been established that their employers’ decisions to fire them were in bad faith. In some of the cases, the verdicts reached several million dollars.

In trying to understand wrongful dismissal, it is important to note that “wrongful dismissal” is not the same as being fired without a “good reason”. Employers are within their rights to fire any of their employees at any stage of an employment relationship as long as they provide “reasonable notice”. Wrongful dismissal occurs where the dismissal is in clear breach of contract. In most cases, a wrongful dismissal occurs where an employee is dismissed by an employer without notice at all or with insufficient notice against the terms of the contract.

What makes wrongful dismissal cases difficult to win for employees?

The hardest part in a wrongful termination case is proving motive. In order to win, an employee must clearly demonstrate that there was an illegal motivation on the part of the employer. A good example is where an employee is dismissed due to his or her sex, race or national origin. Employers have a great advantage in most cases as it is easy for them to provide legitimate explanations even in cases where they acted with illegal motives. It is very rare for an employer to admit that he acted with an illegal motive.

While age discrimination was always an easy ground for wrongful dismissal for older employees in years gone by, it has become increasingly difficult to win on this ground in recent times. This is partly because older employees tend to earn higher wages. Making sure you hire a Law Firm will be key to ensuring you can face this issue. It’s easy for companies who wrongfully dismiss employees to claim that they are simply trying to balance their books, and use a plethora of excuses – so be ready to arm yourself legally.

Are wrongful dismissal cases about reinstatement?

Most wrongful dismissal cases are not about employees getting their jobs back. They are about MONEY. A dismissed employee seeks to get as much money as possible in accordance with his or her circumstances. However, being terminated without a good reason is not sufficient ground to be awarded money by a court.

Here are examples of cases in which employees have won wrongful termination cases against all odds:

Debra Moreno

The 54-year-old employee of a healthcare company in Honolulu was awarded $193,236 by a U.S. District Court in July 2012. After being fired four years earlier, she later learned that her boss had made some disparaging remarks about her to other employees. In his remarks, the company owner had used phrases like “sounds old” and “bag of bones” in reference to Moreno’s voice and appearance. She used those remarks to win her lawsuit.

Matthew Niswonger

After a close shave during while replacing an electrical pole in Ben Lomond in 2011, the PG&E employee would make a safety complaint saying he felt unsafe while working and was suffering from panic attacks and anxiety. After a month-long absence from work, his supervisor asked him to come back to work or explain the absence. After refusing to return to work, he was fired through a voicemail in the same year.

A Santa Cruz County judge awarded him $595,615 in lost wages and $500,000 more for emotional distress after it was established that his termination was linked to his safety complaint. His employer was also ordered to pay his legal fees.