Top-Rated Riverside Unlawful Termination Lawyers

Riverside Wrongful Termination Attorneys Ready to Fight for Your Rights

Rarely does an employee, upon being dismissed from their job, find the termination to be fair or appropriate. In most cases, the person getting fired feels wronged.  The employee will more often than not perceive their termination as unjust. While “wrongful termination” is a commonly used term, it actually has a legal definition.

Employees in Riverside who were let go for reasons they feel are unfair would do well to contact a Riverside wrongful termination attorney for a no-cost case evaluation. Seasoned Riverside wrongful termination lawyers can swiftly analyze the facts to determine if an employment termination was illegal and/or actionable under the applicable law.

A Knowledgeable Wrongful Termination Attorney Riverside Has the Experience Necessary to Navigate Local Procedures

Wrongful termination attorneys Riverside can offer more than a preliminary opinion regarding liability.  Wrongful termination lawyers in Riverside can also provide guidance on how to navigate the procedural rules applicable to Riverside wrongful termination cases. During the life of a case, it is necessary to meet all the applicable deadlines.  Wrongful termination lawyers Riverside will have the knowledge and experience to navigate state, federal, and local procedural requirements seamlessly.

A Skilled Unjust Dismissal Lawyer in Riverside Can Potentially Resolve Disputes without Litigation

Reputation matters significantly. Despite Riverside County’s size, the community of wrongful termination lawyers is tight-knit. Being known as one of the best wrongful job termination lawyers in Riverside can greatly influence defense counsel and insurance companies when deciding on a reasonable settlement. Having the right lawyer can potentially lead to a quicker and better resolution.

Riverside Wrongful Termination Lawyers Understand Riverside Juries

Establishing rapport and connection with a jury, based on trust, is a crucial component of successfully presenting a case to a jury. This is difficult if the lawyer doesn’t understand or relate to his or her audience. Lawyers in Riverside are more likely to connect with jury pools in Riverside County. Jury pools vary significantly from one county to another. Understanding the audience is key to effective advocacy. For this reason, it may be better for folks in Riverside to go with a wrongful termination lawyer Riverside CA.

What Are the Costs of Hiring Wrongful Termination Lawyers in Riverside CA?

Fees charged by wrongful termination attorneys in Riverside vary greatly. Some use contingency-based fees, others hourly rates, while some offer blended arrangements. When it comes to hiring unjust firing law firms in Riverside, there are numerous options and fee structures.

What Fees Should I Expect to Pay for a Wrongful Termination Lawyer Riverside CA?

There’s no fixed rule. Employer-side wrongful termination attorneys usually charge hourly, whereas employee-side attorneys often charge a contingency fee. Both rates can vary greatly based on factors like quality of representation, reputation, and experience.

What Is the Range of Hourly Rates Charged by Employer-Side Wrongful Termination Lawyers in Riverside CA?

Hourly rates vary widely. Employer-side attorneys might charge anywhere from $200.00 to $1,500.00 per hour.

What Is the Range of Contingency Rates Charged by Employer-Side Riverside Wrongful Termination Attorneys?

Contingency rates also vary, usually falling between 40% to 50% for plaintiff-side attorneys. While some offer lower rates, it’s often better to prioritize quality over the lowest cost.

Selecting the Right Unjust Firing Attorneys in Riverside

Finding the best wrongful termination lawyer in Riverside County can be challenging. Online searches may not yield suitable matches. The approach of each firm varies significantly, and not every attorney is the right fit for every case. At the Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C., we prioritize quality over quantity, treating each case as if it will go to trial. Our commitment to excellence and personal service is reflected in the results we achieve. Contact us today for a complimentary case evaluation if you’re looking for the best wrongful termination lawyers in Riverside.

When Is the Right Time to Consult Wrongful Termination Attorneys Riverside?

The sooner, the better. There are deadlines to meet to protect employee rights, and prompt action is essential. A good lawyer will identify and meet these deadlines promptly. Additionally, contacting a lawyer promptly helps preserve evidence, as memories fade and crucial evidence may be lost over time. Collecting evidence and recording witness accounts at the earliest opportunity is crucial, and something a skilled attorney can help with.

Areas Served:

The litigation and trial attorneys of the Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C. provide services throughout Southern California including but not limited to AdelantoAgoura HillsAlhambraAliso ViejoAltadenaAnaheimApple ValleyArcadiaArletaAtwater VillageAzuzaBakersfieldBaldwin ParkBanningBeaumontBellBell GardensBellflowerBeverly HillsBlytheBoyle HeightsBreaBrentwoodBuena ParkBurbankCalabasasCalimesaCamarilloCanoga ParkCanyon LakeCarsonCathedral CityCerritosChatsworthChino HillsChinoClaremontCoachellaColtonComptonCosta MesaCoronaCovinaCulver CityCypressDana PointDesert Hot SpringsDiamond BarDowneyDuarteEagle RockEast HollywoodEast Los AngelesEastvaleEcho ParkEl MonteEl SegundoEl SerenoEncinoFontanaFountain ValleyFullertonGardenaGarden GroveGlassell ParkGlendaleGlendoraGranada HillsHacienda HeightsHawthorneHemetHesperiaHighland ParkHighlandHollywoodHollywood HillsHuntington BeachHuntington ParkIndian WellsIndioInglewoodIrvineJurupa ValleyLa Canada FlintridgeLa-Crescenta MontroseLa HabraLa MiradaLa PalmaLa PuenteLa QuintaLa VerneLaguna BeachLaguna HillsLaguna NiguelLaguna WoodsLakewoodLake BalboaLake ElsinoreLake ForestLancasterLawndaleLincoln HeightsLoma LindaLong BeachLos AlamitosLos AngelesLos FelizLynwoodManhattan BeachMar VistaMaywoodMenifeeMission HillsMission ViejoMonroviaMontclairMontebelloMonterey ParkMoorparkMoreno ValleyMurrietaNewbury ParkNewhallNewport BeachNorcoNorth HillsNorth HollywoodNorthridgeNorwalkOntarioOrangeOxnardPacific PalisadesPacoimaPalos VerdesPalmdalePalm DesertPalm SpringsPanorama CityParamountPasadenaPerrisPico RiveraPlacentiaPomonaPorter RanchRancho CucamongaRancho MirageRancho Santa MargaritaRedondo BeachResedaRialtoRiversideRosemeadRowland HeightsSan BernardinoSan ClementeSan DimasSan GabrielSan FernandoSan JacintoSan Juan CapistranoSan PedroSanta AnaSanta ClaritaSanta MonicaSawtelleSeal BeachShadow HillsSherman OaksSilver LakeSimi ValleySouth El MonteSouth GateSouth PasadenaSouth WhittierStantonStudio CitySun ValleySunlandSylmarTarzanaTemeculaTemple CityThousand OaksToluca LakeTorranceTujungaTustinTwentynine PalmsUplandValenciaValley GlenValley VillageVan NuysVenturaVictorvilleWalnutWest CovinaWest HillsWest HollywoodWest Puente alleyWestchesterWestminsterWestwoodWhittierWildomarWinnetkaWoodland HillsYorba Linda

Featured Wrongful Termination Case:

Guz v. Bechtel Nat. Inc., 24 Cal. 4th 317 (2000)

Guz was a seminal case in California employment law jurisprudence.  As reflected in the California Supreme Court’s opinion, the facts of the case were as follows:

In October 1994, Guz sued Bechtel, challenging the June 1993 termination of his Bechtel employment. The complaint alleged causes of action for breach of an implied employment contract breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and age discrimination in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12941). After extensive discovery, Bechtel filed a motion for summary judgment in August 1995. The motion, and Guz’s opposition thereto, attached numerous supporting documents, including declarations and deposition excerpts. On the basis of these submissions, the following facts appear to be essentially undisputed:

In 1971, Bechtel hired Guz as an administrative assistant at a salary of $750 per month. Throughout his Bechtel career, Guz worked in “management information,” performing, at various times, duties on both the “awarded” and “overhead” sides of this specialty. He received steady raises and promotions. His performance reviews were generally favorable, though his March 1992 evaluation indicated he needed to follow through on ideas and should become “fully computer literate in order to improve his long-term job success.” BNI, a division of Bechtel Corporation, is an engineering, construction, and environmental remediation company that focuses on federal government programs, principally for the Departments of Energy and Defense. Prior to 1993, BNI had its own in-house management information unit, the BNI Management Information Group (BNI–MI). BNI–MI itself represented a 1986 consolidation of two Bechtel management information units, which resulted in the work of these groups being done by fewer people. Between 1986 and 1991, BNI–MI’s size was further reduced from 13 to six persons, and its costs were reduced from $748,000 in 1986 to $400,000 in 1991.

Guz had worked for BNI–MI since 1986. In 1992, at age 49, he was employed as a financial reports supervisor, responsible for supervising BNI–MI’s overhead section, which included himself and 44–year–old Dee Minoia. At salary grade 27, Guz earned $5,940 per month. BNI–MI’s six-member staff also included its manager, Ronald Goldstein (age 50), Goldstein’s secretary Pam Fung (age 45), Robert Wraith (age 41), and Christine Siu (age 34). Guz’s immediate superior was his longtime friend and colleague Goldstein. Goldstein, in turn, reported to Edward Dewey, BNI’s manager of government services.

During this time, Bechtel maintained Personnel Policy 1101, dated June 1991, on the subject of termination of employment (Policy 1101). Policy 1101 stated that “Bechtel employees have no employment agreements guaranteeing continuous service and may resign at their option or be terminated at the option of Bechtel.” Policy 1101 also described several “Categories of Termination,” including “Layoff” and “Unsatisfactory Performance.” With respect to Unsatisfactory Performance, the policy stated that “[e]mployees who fail to perform their jobs in a satisfactory manner may be terminated, provided the employees have been advised of the specific shortcomings and given an opportunity to improve their performance.”2 A layoff was defined as “a Bechtel-initiated termination [ ] of employees caused by a reduction in workload, reorganizations, changes in job requirements, or other circumstances….” Under the Layoff policy, employees subject to termination for this reason “may be placed on ‘holding status’ if there is a possible Bechtel assignment within the following 3–month period.” Guz understood that Policy 1101 applied to him.

In January 1992, Robert Johnstone became president of BNI. While previously running another Bechtel entity, Johnstone had received management information services from the San Francisco Regional Office Management Information Group (SFRO–MI) headed by James Tevis. BNI–MI and SFRO–MI performed similar functions, and John Shaeffer,3 a veteran Bechtel employee who was several months older than Guz, had overhead reporting duties for SFRO–MI that were similar to Guz’s job within BNI–MI.

Johnstone soon became unhappy with the size, cost, and performance of BNI–MI. In April 1992, he advised Dewey, Goldstein, and Guz that BNI–MI’s work could be done by three people. A May 1992 memo from Dewey to Goldstein warned that Dewey and Johnstone had agreed BNI–MI’s 1992 overhead budget of $365,000 was a “maximum not to be exceeded” and was “subject to further analysis and review, since the real guideline was far below this level.”

Between April and October 1992, Guz and Goldstein discussed how to reduce BNI–MI’s work force. In September 1992, Dee Minoia was told to look for another job. In October 1992, on Dewey’s recommendation, Goldstein advised Guz to seek another Bechtel position, citing BNI–MI’s reduced budget as the “biggest factor.” By that time, as Guz knew, BNI–MI’s overhead costs for 1992 had already run well over its strict budget.

In preparation for his departure, Guz compiled a list of his job tasks, together with his suggestions about who should perform his work once the BNI–MI staff was reduced. Guz recommended that most of his duties go to Shaeffer in SFRO–MI, and that the small remaining portion of his work, involving the government’s Defense Contract Audit Agency, be transferred to a unit headed by Ann Dersheimer, BNI’s 46–year–old controller, which regularly performed government audit and contract work. In mid-November, Goldstein managed to persuade Dewey, at least temporarily, that Guz was necessary to BNI–MI’s work. With Dewey’s consent, Goldstein asked Guz to stay, and Guz accepted.

Meanwhile, however, Dewey and Johnstone were discussing the possibility of involving SFRO–MI more actively in BNI’s management information needs. In late November 1992, Goldstein received from Dewey, and discussed with Guz, a memo setting BNI–MI’s target overhead budget for 1993 *330 at $250,000. The memo again suggested staff reductions as a means of bringing the unit’s overhead within the budget limits.

About the same time, Johnstone asked Tevis to submit a proposal to provide BNI’s management information services through SFRO–MI. In early December, Tevis submitted a proposed budget of $200,000, which Johnstone accepted.

On December 9, 1992, Goldstein informed Guz that BNI–MI was being disbanded, that its work would be done by SFRO–MI, and that Guz was being laid off. Goldstein told Guz the reason he had been selected for layoff was to reduce costs. On December 11, 1992, Guz received a confirmatory letter from Dewey, which referred to “the downturn in our workload” and placed Guz on holding status. In a December 17, 1992, memo to BNI managers, Johnstone announced the transfer of BNI–MI to SFRO–MI effective February 1, 1993. During the transition period, as he had earlier recommended, Guz transferred his overhead reporting work to Shaeffer and his government audit work to Dersheimer.

As part of the transition plan, Tevis consulted with Goldstein “about the positions [Tevis] would need that [he] could cover in [his] group and that [he] couldn’t cover.” According to Tevis’s uncontradicted deposition testimony, Goldstein recommended Wraith and Siu as the best additions to SFRO–MI’s staff. The reasons, according to Tevis, were that Siu had necessary skills in Bechtel’s ORS computer operating system and occupied a salary grade commensurate with the duties Tevis wished her to assume, and that Wraith “knew the project side” of management information. Guz’s name came up in the discussion, but Tevis and Goldstein “both decided” Shaeffer and another current SFRO–MI employee, Chris Gee, were sufficient to assume Guz’s overhead work.

Wraith and Siu, the two youngest members of BNI–MI, were transferred to SFRO–MI, while all the remaining BNI–MI employees, including Guz, were laid off. Guz was placed on holding status pending possible reassignment to another Bechtel position.

During early 1993, while Guz was on holding status, three other positions became available in SFRO–MI, partly because of that unit’s expanded responsibilities for BNI. An existing SFRO–MI employee, 42–year–old John Wallace, was selected for a new SFRO–MI position as supervisor of SFRO–MI’s work for BNI. Wallace’s former SFRO–MI subordinate, 52–year–old Jan Vreim, was placed in Wallace’s old job. The third position, vacated by the transfer of another SFRO–MI member, was filled by 38–year–old Barbara Stenho, who also already worked for Bechtel but was a newcomer to SFRO–MI.

Tevis explained that Wallace was selected for his position because it required his computer skills, and because his supervisory and project experience suited him for the responsibility of working directly with BNI president Johnstone, who was project oriented. Vreim was also chosen for her ORS computer ability, her history of working with high-level managers, and her project experience. The SFRO–MI position taken by Stenho required a close working relationship with another Bechtel entity, Bechtel Civil, where Stenho had previously been employed. Stenho was placed in her new job at the specific request of Bechtel Civil’s manager.

Though Guz insists he let it be known he wanted to stay at Bechtel, even at a reduced salary, he appears to concede he did not specifically apply for any of the SFRO–MI positions. Tevis never saw Guz’s resume before filling them, and he admitted he never considered Guz for these jobs.

Tevis variously indicated he did not realize Guz was available, thought Guz “only did overhead,” understood from Goldstein that Guz lacked computer skills, and did not know Guz had supervisory experience. Tevis also noted Guz did not have the Bechtel Civil relationship necessary for the Stenho position. After Tevis was asked, at his deposition, to examine Guz’s resume, Tevis acknowledged it indicated Guz might have qualified for the positions taken by Wraith and Wallace.

Guz’s original three-month holding status was renewed for an additional three months, but he obtained no other position within Bechtel. He was terminated on June 11, 1993.

Guz sought to furnish evidence that the cost reduction and workload downturn reasons given him for the elimination of BNI–MI, and his own consequent layoff, were arbitrary, false, and pretextual. To rebut the implication that a general business slowdown required BNI to lay off workers, Guz submitted an excerpt from Bechtel Corporation’s 1992 Annual Report. There, Bechtel Corporation’s president stated that the “Bechtel team had an exceptional year,” and that the company as a whole had achieved healthy gains in both revenue from current projects and new work booked. In his own declaration, Goldstein stated that BNI–MI’s 1992 and projected 1993 workload was high, that BNI–MI’s work volume was not directly related to the overall job hours of BNI, and that because much of BNI–MI’s overhead cost was recoverable under BNI’s government contracts, the net savings from elimination of BNI–MI were only a small fraction of its budget.

Guz also submitted additional Bechtel documents discussing specific company personnel policies and practices, including those policies pertaining to laid-off employees. These documents included Bechtel’s 1989 Reduction–in–Force Guidelines (RIF Guidelines) and Bechtel’s Personnel Policy 302 (Policy 302).

Policy 302 described a system of employee ranking (sometimes hereafter called force ranking), which was to be “used alone or in conjunction with other management tools in making personnel decisions in such areas as … [s]taffing.” Rankings were to be based on the fair, objective, and consistent evaluation of employees’ comparative job-relevant skills and performance. However, Policy 302 also provided that “[u]nique situations may occur in which employee ranking may be inapplicable based on the nature of the personnel decision or the limited size of the ranking group.” (Italics omitted.)

The RIF Guidelines specified that when choosing among employees to be retained and released during a reduction in force, the formal ranking system set forth in Policy 302 was to be employed. For this purpose, the RIF Guidelines said, employees should “[i]deally” be ranked, by similarity of function or level of work activity, in groups of from 20 to 100. The parties disputed whether Bechtel actually used this force ranking system when eliminating entire units of fewer than 20 employees. Bechtel’s manager of human resources declared that force ranking was inappropriate for small units, such as BNI–MI, whose employees had dissimilar duties, grades, and skills. However, both Guz and Goldstein declared their recollection that force ranking was an established Bechtel policy and was used in 1986 when two management information units, containing 13 employees, were consolidated into a six-member unit, BNI–MI.

The RIF Guidelines also explained the term “holding status” and its benefits. According to the RIF Guidelines, this status could be granted upon layoff, for a renewable three-month period, while the employee awaited possible reassignment. The employee would not receive salary, but Bechtel would maintain his medical, dental, voluntary personal accident, and term life insurance. Bechtel should also provide the employee with “[t]ransfer and [p]lacement [a]ssistance.” The “releasing organization” should determine if the employee was qualified for other vacant positions within the same unit, and “open requisitions” (i.e., solicitation of outside applicants for available positions) should generally be cancelled during a reduction in force. “Efforts should [also] be made to contact discipline counterparts in other Bechtel entities/services” in hopes of placing the employee, and the employee should be considered for future positions. (Italics added.) In his deposition, BNI president Johnstone agreed that Bechtel’s practice was to place an employee on holding status prior to termination, to attempt to reassign the employee during this period, and to “continue to look for positions even after the employee has been laid off.”

In their declarations, Goldstein and Guz insisted Guz was qualified for each of the several vacant positions in SFRO–MI, as well as for several other positions that became available within Bechtel. Addressing Tevis’s specific qualms about Guz, Guz and Goldstein declared that Guz had supervisorial experience and had worked on both the awarded and overhead sides of management information. Guz further stated that he had taken training for the ORS computer system, “had more than adequate computer skills for [his] position,” and was never told his computer skills were deficient.

The trial court granted summary judgment. The court reasoned that “[Guz] was an at-will employee and has not introduced any evidence that he was ever told at any time that he had permanent employment or that he would be retained as long as he was doing a good job…. [¶] Plaintiff is unable to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination…. Plaintiff is also unable to rebut [Bechtel’s] legitimate business reason for his termination and/or his failure to obtain another position within Bechtel….”

Over a vigorous dissent by Presiding Justice Anderson, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four, reversed. The majority, Justices Poche and Reardon, reasoned as follows: Under Foley, supra, 47 Cal.3d 654, 254 Cal.Rptr. 211, 765 P.2d 373, Guz’s longevity, promotions, raises, and favorable performance reviews, together with Bechtel’s written progressive discipline policy and Bechtel officials’ statements of company practices, raised a triable issue that Guz had an implied-in-fact contract to be dismissed only for good cause. There was evidence that Bechtel breached this term by eliminating BNI–MI, on the false ground that workload was declining, as a pretext to weed out poor performers without applying the company’s progressive discipline procedures. As to Guz’s age discrimination claim, Bechtel was required to advance a credible nondiscriminatory reason for Guz’s termination, after which the burden shifted to Guz to produce evidence that the proffered reason was discriminatory or pretextual. As already noted, however, whether a downturn in workload was the real reason for Bechtel’s action was in legitimate dispute. Hence, summary judgment on the age discrimination claim was improper.

The dissent argued that the trial court properly dismissed all Guz’s causes of action. It reasoned as follows: As to the contract claim, Policy 1101 expressly provided that Bechtel employment was at will. The progressive discipline policy did not apply to general reductions in force, and nothing in Bechtel’s personnel policies otherwise limited its right to eliminate positions. Guz’s mere successful longevity could not prove a contractual right to be terminated only for good cause. Moreover, there was no evidence the elimination of BNI–MI was pretextual, or that Bechtel violated the implied covenant of fair dealing by engaging in intentional, bad faith conduct to deprive Guz of the benefits of his employment. As to age discrimination, Bechtel gave legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for eliminating BNI–MI, and Guz presented no evidence these reasons were false, let alone excuses for intentional discrimination against Guz on the basis of his age.

The Supreme Court granted review and reach the following conclusions set forth in the opinion:

First, the Court of Appeal used erroneous grounds to reverse summary judgment on Guz’s implied contract cause of action. The Court of Appeal found triable evidence (1) that Guz had an actual agreement, implied in fact, to be discharged only for good cause, and (2) that the elimination of Guz’s work unit lacked good cause because Bechtel’s stated reason—a “downturn in … workload”—was not justified by the facts, and was, in truth, a pretext to discharge the unit’s workers for poor performance without following the company’s “progressive discipline” policy. We acknowledge a triable issue that Guz, like other Bechtel workers, had implied contractual rights under specific provisions of Bechtel’s written personnel policies. But neither the policies, nor other evidence, suggests any contractual restriction on Bechtel’s right to eliminate a work unit as it saw fit, even where dissatisfaction with unit performance was a factor in the decision. The Court of Appeal’s ruling on Guz’s implied contract claim must therefore be reversed. The Court of Appeal did not reach the additional ground on which Guz claims a contractual breach—i.e., that Bechtel failed to follow its fair layoff policies when, during and after the reorganization, it made individual personnel decisions leading to Guz’s release. Accordingly, we leave that issue to the Court of Appeal on remand.

Second, the Court of Appeal erred in restoring Guz’s separate cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Here Guz claims that even if his employment included no express or implied-in-fact agreement limiting Bechtel’s right to discharge him, and was thus “at will” (Lab.Code, § 2922), the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, implied by law in every contract, precluded Bechtel from terminating him arbitrarily, as by failing to follow its own policies, or in bad faith. But while the implied covenant requires mutual fairness in applying a contract’s actual terms, it cannot substantively alter those terms. If an employment is at will, and thus allows either party to terminate for any or no reason, the implied covenant cannot decree otherwise. Moreover, although any breach of the actual terms of an employment contract also violates the implied covenant, the measure of damages for such a breach remains solely contractual. Hence, where breach of an actual term is alleged, a separate implied covenant claim, based on the same breach, is superfluous. On the other hand, where an implied covenant claim alleges a breach of obligations beyond the agreement’s actual terms, it is invalid.

Finally, we disagree with the Court of Appeal that Guz’s claim of prohibited age discrimination has triable merit. Bechtel presented evidence, largely undisputed, that the reasons for its personnel decisions leading to Guz’s release had nothing to do with his age. In the face of this showing, evidence cited by Guz that certain workers preferred over him were substantially younger is insufficient to permit a rational inference that age played any significant role in his termination.

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