California is a so-called ‘at-will’ employment state.—meaning a company or organization does not need a ‘good cause’ to terminate your employment. In fact, an employer can technically fire you for no reason at all. That being said, companies cannot remove an employee for an illegal reason. In this article, our Riverside wrongful termination attorneys provide a brief summary of when you can (and cannot) be fired by your employer in California.
California’s Labor Code Presumes At-Will Employment
There is no generalized “fairness” requirement under California law. Under California law (CA Labor Code § 2922), an employment relationship that has no pre-specified term may be terminated by either party upon notice to the other party. In other words, the state assumes ‘at-will’ employment unless there is an agreement that clearly states otherwise. In effect, this means that California employers can terminate workers for “no reason”. Companies and organizations have wide discretion to make their own hiring and firing decisions.
California Employers Cannot Fire Workers for ‘illegal’ Reasons
It is crucial that all employees in California understand the limitations of our state’s ‘at-will’ employment rules. Under state and federal regulations, employees have very important legal protections. If an employer fires you for an illegal reason, your rights have been violated. You can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit. Here are four of the most common reasons why employees bring wrongful termination claims in California:
- Discrimination: You are protected against discriminatory practices under both state and federal law. Notably, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides broad protections to employees. The FEHA prohibits workplace discrimination on many different characteristics, including race, color, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability status, pregnancy status, and more. If there was a discriminatory motive behind your removal, your rights were violated.
- Retaliation: Employees are allowed to raise complaints and exercise their workplace rights without facing any form of punishment from their employer. If you were fired because you made a complaint, reported wrongdoing, or engaged in other protected activities, you were a victim of unlawful retaliation. As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), retaliation is the most commonly alleged employment claim in the United States.
- Violation of Public Policy: In California, employees can bring a wrongful termination claim on public policy grounds. Essentially, an employer terminates a worker for a reason that goes against our state’s public policy. As an example, imagine that a Riverside company asks a worker to do something illegal. The employee cannot be punished for their refusal. If they are fired, they can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.
- Breach of Contract: Finally, it is important to remember that employment agreements are legally binding. California’s at-will employment rules apply when there are no specified terms to the relationship. An employee who is fired in breach of a contract can bring a wrongful termination claim to seek financial compensation for their damages.
Of course, employers often try to conceal wrongful termination with pretextual reasoning. If you believe that you were unlawfully terminated, your case should be comprehensively investigated by an experienced attorney.
Call Our California Wrongful Termination Lawyers Today
At Wagner Zemming Christensen LLP, our top-rated Riverside employment attorneys have extensive experience handling complex wrongful termination claims. If you were fired by your employer, your rights may have been violated. We are ready to help. To set up a free case evaluation, please contact our legal team today. With an office in Riverside, we handle wrongful termination claims throughout Southern California, including in San Bernardino, Fontana, Corona, Moreno Valley, and Ontario.