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What rights do at-will employees have in California?

There are many different types of employment in California and many different employers. Most employers require that their employees perform the tasks of the job adequately, but beyond that each employer has their own rules about conduct, expectations, benefits and other aspects of the employment. However, most employees in California are also known as at-will employees. This is true in most circumstances even if the employee signs an employee agreement and agrees to abide by a number of different covenants.

At-will employment means that the employer can fire the employee at pretty much any time for almost any reason. There are exceptions to this rule though which will be discussed below. Many times employees sign employment contracts, but most cover things like benefits, non-compete clauses, non-solicitation clauses, salary, hours and other aspects of the job. However, the employee is still an at-will employee unless the contract states that the employee is going to be employed for a set period of time, like a one-year contract.

While it may seem like at-will employees have no guarantees, there are some protections that even at-will employees have in regards to being terminated. Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on a number of protected aspects like their sex, sexual orientation, age, disabilities, religion and others. Employers also cannot terminate an employee in retaliation for the employee reporting illegal activity within the company to the proper authorities. If an at-will employee is fired for one of these reasons, then the employee may have a wrongful termination claim.

Most employees in California do not have employment contracts guaranteeing employment for a certain period of time. These employees are considered at-will and can legally be fired for almost any reason at any time. However, there are exceptions and if they are fired because of discrimination or retaliation, the employee may be able to receive compensation for back-pay, future-pay and/or be reinstated to their position. All employees in California have certain rights and experienced attorneys may be able to help protect them.

Source: employment.findlaw.gov "At-Will Employee FAQ's" accessed on Nov. 30, 2017

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