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Understanding Firing for Good Cause

The state of California is known as an at-will state, which allows an employer great latitude in firing employees provided that no civil rights laws are broken in the process. However, if you have signed a contract with a workplace to receive employment, you might have some added protection against a frivolous termination. One thing to be aware of is whether your contract contains a “for cause” firing provision. 

Some employees are hired with an employment contract that describes the grounds for the employee to be terminated. Under these contracts, an employee may only be fired for “good cause” or “just cause.” These provisions restrict the number of ways an employee may be fired. If a person is fired without a reason that can be considered good cause, the person may have grounds to litigate on the basis of wrongful termination. 

Defining what constitutes firing for good cause is important. Forbes explains that employment contracts should describe the reasons why the company can terminate employment. These stated reasons help the employee understand the requirements of worker conduct desired by the employer. Should a worker be fired for reasons not included in the contract, the business might be credibly accused of breaking the contract without cause. 

If the contract does not contain explicit reasons an employee may be fired, another place to look is in the employee handbook if the employer has published one. Employee handbooks contain a lot of information and may include phrases that denote firing “for cause.” Even if a handbook is not explicitly an employment contract, a court may consider it to be one if it implies a contractual relationship. 

Sometimes an employer does not even have to establish for cause firing conditions in a written contract. Per FindLaw, an employer may verbally promise a person applying for a job that he or she will not be fired unless there is a valid or good reason to do so. Oral promises can be considered legitimate means of employment, so employment termination that seems to be frivolous and unfair could be taken as a wrongful firing. 

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