Employment Law Offices of Stephen Danz & Associates Serving Vista, California
At Stephen Danz and Associates, we have upheld the rights of employees for over forty years. Our firm attorneys work out of offices throughout California to ensure coverage and bring cases in any California court. Further, we distinguish ourselves on our excellent and sound legal representation, responsiveness, experience and knowledge. In Vista, California, our legal counselors are highly specialized and handle complex employment lawsuits where private individuals trust us to bring forth their cases in local, state and federal courts. Call Stephen Danz and Associates for any employment litigation related cases throughout California.
Common California Workplace Legal Issues include wrongful termination, sexual harassment, age discrimination, disability discrimination, gender discrimination, race or national origin discrimination, retaliation, unpaid overtime, wage and hour violations, severance negotiation and whistleblowing. It is vital to have a competent attorney review your case to have maximal results.
Violation of Employment Contracts
One of the more common issues we have dealt with in Vista, California has been violations of employment contracts. Interestingly, an employment contract may provide for liquidated damages. Such damages may be awarded if the provision was not “unreasonable under the circumstances existing at the time the contract was made.” California courts presume that liquidated damage provisions are valid. Therefore, the party seeking to avoid the liquidated damages bears the burden of showing that the provision is unreasonable. If the contract provides for both liquidated damages and injunctive relief, the court is unlikely to grant both forms of relief, especially if prospective damages, such as front pay, are sought.
What Factors are Considered by Court when Evaluating Damages?
In evaluating whether a liquidated damages clause was reasonable at the time the contract was made, the following factors are considered:
- The relationship between the damages provided in the contract and the harm that reasonably could have been anticipated when the contract was made;
- The parties’ relative bargaining power;
- Whether the parties were represented by lawyers;
- The parties’ expectation that proof of actual damages would be costly or inconvenient;
- The difficulty of proving causation and foreseeability; and
- Whether the clause was in a form contract.
Are Emotional Distress Damages Available On Employment Contract Violations?
The answer depends. In our experience, emotional distress damages in employment contract disputes are not available. In fact, mental suffering and emotional distress damages generally are not recoverable as contract damages. However, in a few contract cases, recovery of damages for emotional distress has been permitted. When emotional distress to a party is a particularly foreseeable and contemplated result of a breach, recovery has been allowed under contract theory. Under “unique facts” of a case, triable issue existed as to whether parties contemplated that emotional distress would be foreseeable result of breach. Although it is unlikely that this exception would apply in the normal employment context, we have alerted our clients of special circumstances indicating the employer’s previous knowledge or awareness of plaintiff’s emotional or mental state.
Do Plaintiffs have a Duty to Mitigate Damages?
Yes. The aggrieved party must mitigate his or her damages. Courts have said that a plaintiff who suffers damage as a result of either a breach of contract or a tort has a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate those damages and will not be able to recover for any losses which could have been thus avoided.” In several California employment cases, this means that the plaintiff must take reasonable steps to find and retain other comparable employment.
What Can Plaintiffs Actually Recover in Breach of Employment Contract Cases?
Plaintiffs may recover all of the compensation, including salary and fringe benefits, both in the past and often in the future, that he or she has lost as a result of the breach of the employment contract, subject to the duty to mitigate See also CACI 2406 (damages for breach of employment contract).
What Type of Relief if Offered to Plaintiffs in Breach of Employment Contract Cases?
The most common type of relief is back pay. Back pay is the plaintiff’s lost earnings from the time of the breach of contract through entry of judgment or reinstatement. It is a compensatory remedy intended to make the plaintiff whole. The amount of back pay is based on the amount the plaintiff would have earned had he or she continued in the employment, less the amount which the employer affirmatively proves the employee has earned or with reasonable effort might have earned from other employment.
If the employee was wrongfully terminated or not hired, back pay generally is calculated from the date of the wrongful act until the date of the final judgment. For example, if the employee was denied promotion, the time period for which back pay is available may depend on whether the employee resigned, continued in employment, or was constructively terminated. An employee who was denied promotion and subsequently resigned may be precluded from recovering back pay for the period after the date of voluntary resignation, unless the employee can show that he or she was constructively discharged. In one case example, a court declined to adopt rule that would strictly limit back pay and front pay damages in cases of failure to promote.
If an employee was demoted but continued to remain employed, the back pay may be calculated to compensate for losses suffered from the date of demotion to the date of trial; the measure of damages is the difference in compensation before and after the demotion. Plaintiff’s right to recover back pay can be terminated by many events. Contact our office for more examples and to discuss your rights.