What You Need to Know About California’s At-Will Employment Law

You might have already heard or read somewhere that California is an at-will employment state. The California at-will employment law means that employers can fire their employees for any reason or no reason, and they do not have to give notice regarding a termination. This right to end a job at any time without cause is also extended to California employees. In general, an employee in California can quit without notice, and they don’t need to justify their departure in any way. 

If the California at-will employment law concerns you, know that there are limitations to your employer’s ability to fire on a whim. Even if your job is at-will, your employer cannot fire you for an illegal reason, and our experienced employment attorneys at Bibiyan Law Group, P.C., can help make sure that your employer pays for its wrongdoing if it unlawfully terminates you. We have several attorneys standing by who can bring unethical employers around the State of California to justice. Contact us today to speak with a California employment attorney!

Some Employees Are Not At-Will

At-will employment in California is the default, but it does not apply to everyone. If you entered an employment contract with your employer, the terms of the agreement might prevent you from getting fired unless your misconduct breaches the contract. An employment contract that protects you from an at-will firing can be a formal, written agreement, or it can be implied through your employer’s words or actions. 

If you are terminated without reason, take any written contracts, collective bargaining agreements, employment policies, and information about your employer’s actions or statements to an experienced attorney. An employment attorney can determine whether your employer breached your employment contract. And if you were fired in violation of a work contract, you can sue your employer for damages. 

At-Will Employers Cannot Fire Employees for Discriminatory Reasons

At-will employment laws do not apply to employers that fire their employees for discriminatory reasons. If an employer fires its employee based on any of the following protected characteristics, the employer has committed a wrongful termination and could be obligated to change its policies and pay you financial damages: 

  • Race,
  • Gender,
  • National origin,
  • Disability,
  • Color, 
  • Religion, 
  • Genetics, 
  • Military or veteran status, 
  • Age (for those who are 40 or older), 
  • Sex, or 
  • Marital status.

Your employer also commits wrongful termination if it fires you for helping with the investigation or litigation of a discrimination claim filed by one of your coworkers. 

At-Will Employers Cannot Fire Employees for Asserting Their Rights

You have several rights as an employee, and if your employer fires you for asserting any of those rights, the termination is illegal. Your employer cannot fire you for properly doing any of the following:

  • Taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act, 
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim, 
  • Taking time off to serve on a jury, 
  • Reporting safety violations at work, 
  • Refusing to engage in illegal activity,
  • Disclosing your employer’s unlawful conduct, 
  • Filing a complaint regarding your employer’s wage and hour violations, and 
  • Taking time off to report for military duty. 

If your employer fires you for one of the above, the firing is against public policy, and your employer is likely liable for damages. 

Sometimes an Employer Lies About Why You Were Fired 

If your employer fires you for discriminatory reasons or reasons against public policy, watch out for pretextual arguments. Pretext here means that your boss gives a false reason for your termination. 

When you claim wrongful termination, your employer might try to justify its actions by arguing that you broke too many rules or your work was subpar. You can disprove these arguments with evidence that your employer’s justifications don’t make sense, such as:

  • The lack of work violations or complaints on your record, 
  • The abundance of good or stellar reviews for your work, or 
  • Your employer’s failure to fire similarly situated employees who broke the same rules your employer is alleging you broke. 

Gathering this type of evidence for your claim is best handled by a knowledgeable attorney. There are many legal tools, such as interrogatories and various types of subpoenas, that attorneys can use to get all the information their clients need to successfully litigate or negotiate a claim. 

How to Hold Your Employer Accountable for Wrongful Termination

If you have been fired in breach of an employment contract, you can sue your employer in court. If your contract was written, you have four years to file your lawsuit. And if your contract was oral, you must file your legal action within two years. 

Victims of discrimination typically have the option of filing a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) within three years or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days. You can also sue for a discriminatory firing, but you must first receive a notice from the CRD or EEOC that says you have a right to sue. 

And if your employer fired you for reasons that are against public policy, you can lodge some complaints with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or the U.S. Department of Labor. Depending on the nature of your complaint, you could have up to three years to file. 

To make sure that you send your complaints on time to the right agency or tribunal, immediately speak to an attorney about the details of your case. 

Bibiyan Law Group Can Fight a Wrongful Termination

At Bibiyan Law Group, our large network of experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers are not afraid to fight. We are aggressive and compassionate advocates who want to make sure that employers in California do not take advantage of their employees or infringe on their employees’ rights. We have recovered millions of dollars in damages for our clients, and we are highly rated for the legal services we provide. If you need help, you can call us at 310-438-5555 or contact us online

Author Photo

David Bibiyan is a distinguished attorney at Tomorrow Law, renowned for his expertise in employment law. With a strong focus on representing employees in various workplace disputes, he has become a trusted advocate for those facing discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and wage and hour issues. Bibiyan’s approach is characterized by a deep understanding of both state and federal employment laws, ensuring that his clients receive knowledgeable and effective representation. His commitment to justice is evident in his dedication to each case, where he meticulously works to secure the best possible outcomes for his clients. Bibiyan’s reputation is built on a foundation of successful case resolutions, marked by his skillful negotiation and, when necessary, aggressive litigation strategies. His work at Tomorrow Law reflects a genuine passion for defending workers’ rights and promoting fair employment practices.

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