What is considered “At-Will” Employment in California?

is california an at will state

According to California law, an “at-will” employment in the state of California defines a working relationship with an employee that can be terminated for any reason by their employer. This can happen without any type of warning from the employer in the state of California.

An employee under the “at-will” employment status in California also reserves the right to cease work, strike, or quit their job for any reason and without warning.

However, there are still some restrictions. There are certain conditions that might seem an employer is exercising their “at-will” right to terminate your employment, but you could also be the victim of wrongful termination.

Exceptions to “At-Will” Employment

What is true is that if you’re an “at-will” employee, and you’re fired, you can’t sue your employer if your only claim is that your termination wasn’t fair or they didn’t have cause to fire you. However, there are certain exceptions for “at-will” employees in the state of California. Those include:

  • Employees protected by civil service laws that have a “memorandum understanding” agreement
  • Executive employees that have a contract where termination requires good cause
  • Employees that are part of a union that contains a just cause for termination

When is termination of at-will employee considered unlawful?

Just because you are considered an at-will employee in California you can still be subject to wrongful termination. Additionally, “at-will” employees in California are protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

For example, “at-will” employees can’t be fired for protected characteristics that include:

In addition, employees cannot be fired for their political views, exercising their rights to take sick days, taking a protected leave of absence, or to keep certain benefits from vesting.

Nor can “at-will” employees be fired or forced out for reasons that violate other fundamental “public policies,” or in retaliation for speaking out about something unlawful they thought might be going on in the workplace.

So, while, Yes, California is an “at-will” state, the good news is – that doesn’t mean your employer can wrongfully fire you.

If you’ve been given a reason for being fired or forced out that doesn’t ring true to you explore your legal options. Contact the lawyers at Workplace Rights Law Group today to discuss your legal options.


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