Yes. But what does that really mean?

Most California employees have heard the term “at-will.” You may even have signed something that said your employment was “at-will.” And you may have read or heard that “at-will” means your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason, and that you can’t legally sue them for wrongful termination. Guess what? That’s not actually true.

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. But – and this is the important part – even “at-will” employees cannot be fired for reasons that violate any one of a whole host of state and federal statutes that prohibit terminations for specific, unfair reasons.

For example, even “at-will” employees can’t be fired for of their age, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or other protected characteristics. They can’t be fired for their political or union activities. And they can’t be fired for exercising their rights to take sick days, or for 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, and you think something else might be going on, something improper, maybe you need a second opinion. Contact us. We’re in the business of second opinions.