At-will employment is a type of employment relationship in which either the employer or the employee can end the working relationship at any time and for any reason, with or without notice. However, there are a few exceptions to at-will employment in California. Our Los Angeles employment law attorneys break it down for you below.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment in California
There are five main exceptions to at-will employment in California: public policy, implied contracts, discrimination and/or retaliation, and fraud and/or misrepresentation.
Public Policy Exception
The public policy exception to at-will employment protects employees from being fired for reasons that violate public policy. This could include being fired for refusing to do something illegal, reporting illegal activity by your employer, or taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). To successfully claim this exception, you must be able to point to a specific law or public policy that your termination violates.
Implied Contract Exception
The implied contract exception applies when an employment contract is not explicitly written but is evidenced through the actions of the employer and employee. This could include provisions in an employee handbook or policy manual that have led you to believe you had certain rights or protections, such as a certain length of employment or specific grounds for termination. Our employment law attorneys can help you determine whether an implied contract exists in your case.
Discrimination & Retaliation
It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on the employee’s protected characteristics. The FEHA prohibits employment discrimination based on characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, genetic information, or military and veteran status. If you believe you have been terminated because of discrimination or retaliation, you may have a claim against your employer.
Fraud & Misrepresentation
In some cases, an employee may be able to show that they were misled into accepting a job or entering into an employment contract under false pretenses. For example, if an employer tells an employee that they will have a certain job title, salary, or benefits but then fails to follow through on those promises, the employee may have a claim for fraud or misrepresentation.
When Can My Employer Fire Me Under At-Will Employment?
Your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason in an at-will employment relationship. Examples of this may include, but are not limited to, not meeting job performance expectations, violating company policy, or engaging in misconduct. An employer could be in a bad mood one day and decide to fire a random at-will employee, and there would be nothing inherently unlawful about doing that.
How Do I Know If I Have a Case?
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, you may be wondering if you have a case against your employer. The first step is to speak with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss the specific circumstances of your case and whether one of the exceptions to at-will employment applies. At Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh, LLP, our employment lawyers are dedicated to fighting for the rights of employees who have been wrongfully terminated.
How Our Team Can Help You
The employment law attorneys at Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh, LLP have represented employees in a wide range of employment law matters, including wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, and more. We understand the complex laws that apply to employment cases and will fight tirelessly to protect your rights.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against at work, contact us today at Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh, LLP for a consultation!