While most employees may know that California law follows “at-will” employment, they may not know exactly what that means for them and their job security. Generally speaking, at-will employment means that either you or your employer can terminate the employment at any time and for any reason. This means that your boss may decide to fire you on a whim simply because she did not like your outfit or was in a terrible mood that day. Similarly, you may quit your job and walk out with little to no legal consequences whenever you feel like it.
Like most rules, however, there are exceptions, and not all terminations are protected by at-will employment laws. The following are a couple of exceptions when at-will employment does not apply:
You have an employment contract -- If you signed a contract with your employer for a particular term of employment, your employer likely does not have the right to terminate your employment without good cause. Good causes may include poor job performance, violating company policies or rules, illegal behavior, other forms of insubordination, and more. If you have a contract, your employer cannot end it simply because you gained weight or they do not like you. On the other hand, you also may not be able to quit your job without good cause, as well, without facing possible legal penalties for breaching your contract. Note that even if you did not sign a contract, one may exist based on language in an employee handbook or based on a union agreement.
The reason for termination was unlawful -- Both federal and state employment laws prohibit termination or other employment retaliation based on several factors. The following are some examples of reasons that may constitute wrongful and unlawful termination:
Due to your race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, marital status, medical condition, or any other protected factor.
Because you participated in protected union activities.
Because you filed a claim for workers’ compensation.
Because you assisted with investigations into unlawful harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
Because you reported illegal or wrongful acts on the part of your employer (whistle-blowing).
Because you exercised a constitutional right or performed a legal duty (such as voting or jury duty).
Rarely, however, will an employer admit that there was an unlawful reason behind your termination. Instead, an employer will often put forward a pretextual reason for firing you when the actual reason was against the law. In such cases, an experienced employment attorney can help you prove that you were, in reality, wrongfully terminated.
Contact an experienced California employment lawyer for assistance today
If you believe you were the victims of wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, or other violations of law in the workplace, your first call should be to the Pershing Square Law Firm for help. We are committed to helping California employees stand up for their rights, so call today at 800-696-1206 to discuss your situation.