Is California An “At-Will” Employment State?”
Yes, California is an at-will employment state, as is every other state with the exception of Montana. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, without notice, even without good cause. An employer does not need to give any reason when firing an employee. However, that does not mean that an employer can fire someone for any reason at all. There are important limits on an employer’s ability to fire an employee.
There are two major reasons why an employer’s decision to fire an employee might violate labor laws. The first is if the employment arrangement is not truly at-will. The following employees may not be considered an at-will employee:
- Public sector employees
- Employees who are members of a labor union
- Employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement
- Employees who have written employment contracts requiring “good cause” for termination; and
- Situations in which an employers’ actions overcome the presumption of at-will employment.
In these situations, an employer may need to provide a good reason for firing the employee.
Regardless of an at-will employment relationship, employers cannot fire an employee for an illegal reason. For example, employers cannot base their firing decision on any of the following:
- Illegal discrimination, such as on the basis of race, color, sex, sex identity, age, national origin, sexual orientation, family status, religion, veteran status, genetic information disability, medical condition, or medical leave.
- In retaliation for protesting an employer’s illegal act, or for reporting to the employer or a government agency that the employer or one of its supervisors violated a law.
- An employee’s refusal to commit an illegal act.
If you suspect you have been illegally fired from your job, then contact a California employment attorney as soon as possible.