Most employees in California are at-will employees. This means they do not have a contract that states they will be employed for a certain length of time. It also means they can quit at any time and do not need a reason. This type of freedom means that employers can also fire employees at almost any time for almost any reason and not violate the law. However, there are some limitations on what employers are allowed to do.
There are situations when and reasons why employers cannot fire their employees. There are three main reasons they cannot do so and, if they do, it could be considered wrongful termination. One is they cannot fire an employee based on discrimination. There are many different protected classes of individuals and employers cannot fire employees for being in one of those protected classes. These classes include, but are not limited to age, sex, gender identification, race, disability and others.
Another reason they cannot fire their employees is to retaliate against the employee for reporting illegal activity. This could be reporting sexual harassment and other illegal activity internally or reporting these actions to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. Employees are also protected against retaliation for participating in an investigation into illegal activity reported by another employee.
The final reason that employees may be able to file wrongful termination claims is if they have a written contract and the employer violated the terms of that contract in firing the employee. While most employees are at will, there are some that do have written employment contracts and those contracts must be followed.
There are many people who are fired by their employers each year in California. In many instances, the employer may not have treated the employee well or fired them without warning, but this is not always illegal. It is only a wrongful termination if the employee is fired for one of the reasons stated above. These types of cases can be very fact specific and experienced attorneys may able to guide clients through them.