What Is At-Will Employment? Can I Really Be Fired For Any Reason?

What Is At-Will Employment? Can I Really Be Fired For Any Reason?

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “at-will employment” at work before. But what does it really mean? In short, it means that your employer can hire and fire workers “at-will.” This means that most employers are not generally required to hire anyone specific or retain workers for a certain amount of time. In theory, this means that employers can hire and fire employees and other workers for any reason or no reason at all. But as with any rule, there are always exceptions.

Both the federal government and the state of California have rules in place that prohibit employers from firing workers for certain reasons, most of them having to do with discriminatory reasons. The vast majority of workers in the US are at-will employees. This is the default, meaning that you are an at-will employee unless there is proof otherwise, like an employment contract, workplace policy, or an implied contract based on the employer’s actions or statements.

Causes of Wrongful Termination

Although there are seemingly endless reasons an employee can be fired from a job, there is a list of reasons that cannot be used as justification for a worker’s termination. If you’ve been fired for any of these reasons, you may have a case for wrongful termination against your employer.

  • Discrimination – Employers cannot fire workers based on protected classes like religion, sexual orientation, age over 40, national origin, gender, and others.
  • Retaliation – Companies also cannot terminate an employee for raising concerns of illegalities in the workplace (whistleblowing), filing workers’ compensation claims, or complaining about unlawful discrimination and harassment at their job.
  • Employment Contract Violations – If you’ve signed an employment agreement, your employer is required to uphold their end of the agreement. Not doing so can lead to a breach of contract claim.
  • Implied Contract Violations – Even if there is not a written contract in place, your employer’s actions or statements may have created an implied employment contract. For example, if an employer told you during an interview that you would only be fired for certain reasons and you relied on those statements, they will likely be required to abide by them.
  • Employee Handbook / Policy Violations – Many employers have policies and procedures in place that govern the hiring and firing of employees and unsurprisingly, they may have to abide by the rules they make.
  • Protected Leave Violations – California workers have the right to take a variety of protected leaves including FMLA leave, military service leave, new parent leave, and more. These leaves are called “protected” leaves because your job is protected while you are on leave. Your employer cannot fire you simply because you exercised your right to take these kinds of protected leaves.

Have You Been Fired Illegally? Call Davtyan Law Firm

If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated for one of the reasons listed above, you may need the help of an experienced California labor law attorney. The legal team at Davtyan Law Firm exclusively handles California employment law cases. We have experience helping employees of all kinds of companies including large corporations. Call us today for your no-obligation legal consultation!

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Based in California, we focus exclusively on employment law, protecting employees' rights. We handle a broad range of employment disputes including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour issues, among others.

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