Defining 'At Will' Employment in California
If you’re an employee, you may be wondering if your employer can fire you for any reason. California employers do have leeway when it comes to letting employees go, however, there are limitations.
Employment relationships in California and every other state with the exception of Montana are presumed to be “at-will.” The United States happens to be one of a handful of countries where employment is almost exclusively at-will.
What Does "At-Will" Mean?
An at-will relationship means that the employee or the employer can terminate the relationship at any time, and for any reason, without incurring legal liability. However, an employee cannot be terminated because of discrimination. This also means that employee has the right to leave their job at any time without facing adverse legal consequences.
California’s Labor Code specifies that employment relationships without a specific duration are presumed to be “at-will.” In theory, this means that an employee or an employer can terminate the relationship without cause. However, there are exceptions to the at-will rule, and these include terminating an employee because of:
- Reporting an employer’s violation of the law
- Exercising a statutory right, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim
- Participating in union activity
- Refusing to do something that violates the law
- Sexual orientation
- Reporting sexual harassment in the workplace
While California is an at-will employment state, there are state and federal laws and regulations that protect employee rights. Generally, employees who work for private employers and state and local governments are protected under:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (anti-discrimination laws)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (protects disabled employees)
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1976 (protects those who are 40 and older)
- Equal Pay Act of 1963 (prohibits sex discrimination in regards to wages)
If you believe that you are a victim of wrongful termination, you are strongly encouraged to contact Los Angeles employment law attorney, Alan Burton Newman. He is a Harvard lawyer with three decades of experience.
Attorney Newman has recovered millions on behalf of his clients and all cases are taken on a no recovery, no fee basis. Call (310) 986-2792 to schedule your free case evaluation!