Are There Limits to At-Will Employment in California?

California is among the majority of states that recognize at-will employment. Typically outlined in employment agreements, at-will employment essentially allows employers to terminate someone’s job for almost any reason or no reason at all. Likewise, at-will employees can leave their jobs at any time without notice or an obligation to complete projects.

This might come as a shock to some, especially those who are aware of California’s steep regulations (compared to basic federal laws and those of other states) that protect employees’ rights. While at a glance at-will employment might look like a boon for unscrupulous employers to eliminate “rabble-rousers” or people they simply don’t like, it neither applies to every employee nor can it preclude a wrongful termination claim in some cases.

At-Will Employment Isn’t a Wrongful Termination Shield

At-will employment doesn’t automatically protect employers from wrongful termination claims. Just because an employer says you were terminated at-will won’t always make it so. In all-too-often cases, at-will employment is cited as a smokescreen to conceal illegal reasons for firing someone. Ultimately, many unlawful motivations to terminate employment amount to discrimination and retaliation (for reporting discrimination or other unlawful business practices, such as overtime pay violations).

Under federal and state law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone for their association with an age of 40 or older, race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability status, sexual orientation, and other protected classes. An employee can’t be fired at-will if his employer discovers he is transgender or in his 50s and terminates him on either basis. Likewise, the employee can’t use termination as a punishment if the employee complains about being denied overtime pay or enduring another kind of unlawful treatment.

While at-will employment gives employers enough breadth to shape their workforce as they see fit, that ability isn’t absolute – especially not if discrimination and retaliation are factors. In either case and others, employees can successfully sue for wrongful termination despite the employer’s claim that they were fired at-will.

Jobs That Can Be Exempt from At-Will Employment

Not all workers in California are subject to at-will employment. Certain factors and circumstances can apply to your job that wouldn’t make you an at-will employee, and therefore able to sue for wrongful termination or breach of contract.

Common jobs that are exempt from at-will employment include:

  • Unionized Jobs: When you’re working as a member of a union, your organization may have a collective bargaining agreement in place that exempts its workers from at-will employment.
  • Public Sector Jobs: If your employer is the government at any level (local, state, federal), it’s likely that your employment is not at-will. In fact, these workers often enjoy due process, which requires advance notice and a hearing to occur before their employment can be terminated.
  • Contract Jobs: If you’re working under a contract without an at-will clause, chances are good your employer can’t terminate your employment at-will without becoming liable for a breach of contract claim.

Limonjyan Law Group Can Fight for You

If you believe you are a victim of wrongful termination, Limonjyan Law Group can fight for you. Your employer may have cited the at-will clause in your employment agreement, but circumstances surrounding your termination may indicate you have a valid wrongful termination claim.

Take advantage of a free consultation with our wrongful termination lawyer who will learn about your situation and can help you move forward with your claim. Don’t let a dishonest and spiteful boss add insult to injury by getting away with violating your rights. You can hold them accountable and seek fair and just compensation for your losses.

Contact Limonjyan Law Group online today or call (213) 277-7444 to set up your free initial consultation with us today.