What Is the Difference Between Laid Off and Terminated in California?

In California, the terms “laid off” and “terminated” both refer to the end of an employment relationship. However, they can have different implications. While they have similar outcomes, understanding the difference between laid off and terminated, especially regarding severance and unemployment benefits, can be crucial. Contact us today to speak with a California wrongful termination attorney!

A Look at Employment Termination in California

If you’ve been laid off in California, you may wonder, “What is the difference between laid off and terminated?” Let’s review what sets them apart.


Most California employees are hired “at will,” which means employers can fire or lay off workers for almost any or no reason. The exception is when an employer fires or lays off an employee in violation of the employee’s employment contract or state or federal law.

Generally, employers will fire or “terminate” an employee based on things like poor performance, managerial disagreements, or alleged misconduct. Other times, employers terminate an employee for unconvincing or unfair reasons, but it may still be legal. And sometimes, a termination may be due to layoffs.

Unless specified in an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, employers terminating an employee do not have to offer benefits or a separation package. However, employees must receive their final paycheck promptly, including any accrued but unused vacation or paid time off. In rare cases, California employees terminated for misconduct may also be ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Laid Off

In contrast, employees are often laid off due to factors beyond the employer’s control. This most commonly occurs out of necessity when the company restructures, downsizes, or goes out of business. Another difference is that these terminations are usually unrelated to the employee’s performance or how the employer categorizes their performance.

In California, applicable companies that employ 100 or more employees forced to lay off any workforce must comply with California Labor Code requirements and give employees proper notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). In some cases, laid-off employees may also collect unemployment insurance, severance pay, and continued healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

Whether you were terminated or laid off, if you feel it was for unlawful reasons, you have rights. If this is the case, discuss your claim with an experienced California wrongful termination attorney as soon as possible, especially before signing a severance agreement or other documents. An experienced employment lawyer can review your claim, explain your options, and help you safeguard your employment and unemployment benefits.

Bibiyan Law Group: Your Advocate for Justice

If you feel your employer let you go from your job unlawfully, Bibiyan Law Group can help you hold your employer accountable. As employment law advocates, we’ve won millions of dollars for clients fighting unlawful employment practices, garnering a perfect Avvo rating and a lauded place in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. As your employment law advocate, you can expect compassionate support, fierce advocacy, and legal know-how you can trust. Contact us at 310-438-5555 to book a free phone consultation. We are experienced negotiators ready to battle for the resolution you’re entitled to.

Author Photo

Los Angeles Employment Lawyer David Bibiyan has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of employees all across California for unpaid wages and emotional distress caused by discrimination, harassment, and wrongful terminations. Give Los Angeles Employer Lawyer David D. Bibiyan a call today and find out if he can help you with your workplace-related issues.

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