In California, most employment is “at-will” meaning that an employer or employee may terminate the employment at any time for almost any reason.  There are of course exceptions to this general rule.  Those exceptions include any action taken by the employer based on or done because of a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include race, religion, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, national origin, etc. It is also illegal to fire an employee because the employee complained of or reported illegal acts by the employer. Firing an employee for complaining about labor law violations, such as unpaid overtime or failure to provide meal and rest breaks, is another common basis for a wrongful termination claim.  

California courts have also held that an employer’s general right to terminate an “at-will” employee is ‘subject to limits imposed by public policy, since otherwise the threat of discharge could be used to coerce employees into committing crimes, concealing wrongdoing, or taking other action harmful to the public.

However, if the employer provides oral assurances of continued employment, the “at will” relationship may found to have been modified, which may require the employer to establish “good cause” prior to terminating the employee. In the legal sense of the phrase as used under California state law, “good cause” means “fair and honest reasons, regulated by good faith on the part of the employer, that are not trivial, arbitrary, or capricious, unrelated to business needs or goals, or pretextual.

If you have lost your job and are unsure whether it was wrongful termination, you should have you situation reviewed by an attorney to ensure that you are protecting your rights.

 


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