California is an “at-will” employment state. That means your employer can fire you “at their will.” But is it really true that you can be fired from your job at any time and for any reason? The answer is, it depends.
Both state and federal laws contain a number of restrictions on an employer’s right to fire an employee.
- Employee contract: In California, if you signed a contract with your employer specifying terms of employment, including termination, this may be enough to get out of your “at-will” status.
- Collective Bargaining Agreements: If you are a member of a union, there may be a written agreement that spells out the conditions that must be satisfied before your employer can terminate you.
- Company handbooks and manuals: In some cases, courts have found that if an employer has employee handbooks or manuals, and these documents contain language regarding termination, they can be treated as “contracts” between you and your employer.
- Discrimination: Your employer cannot fire you based on your race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation.
- Retaliation: Your employer cannot fire you as a way to retaliate against you in the following instances:
For participating in an investigation of sexual harassment, discrimination, or any other alleged misconduct of the employer;
For a work-related injury wherein you applied for workers’ compensation;
For participating in union activity or union investigations;
For retaliation for being a whistleblower revealing illegal or improper conduct of the employer;
For exercising your right to take family medical leave pursuant to the California Family Rights Act and the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act.
As an employee you have the right to be treated fairly and in accordance with the law.