Is my employer allowed to fire me for no reason?

Yes, your employer can fire you without reason in most cases. It does not matter whether you did anything wrong. Employment in California is “at-will,” meaning an employer can fire at will, i.e., dismiss employees any time for any reason (or no reason) as long as they are not fired for one of the few illegal reasons.

Illegal reasons for firing an employee in California include discrimination or harassment based on a legally protected characteristic such as age, sex, race, national origin, disability, or medical leave. It is also unlawful to terminate a worker in retaliation for reporting illegal workplace misconduct, complaining about unpaid wages, or engaging in certain other protected activities such as voting, providing testimony or military leave.

California’s at-will employment rules apply unless there is a legally binding agreement with set terms defining the employment relationship. For example, some employees have a contract specifying that the employer can only fire them for a good cause. An employee who is fired in breach of a contract may file a wrongful termination claim. Such contracts are more common for CEOs, Presidents, and other top executives.

Historically, employees formed unions to bargain for more rights, including protection from being fired at-will. Being a union member who has entered into a union collective bargaining agreement with your employer means there are specific circumstances under which you can be fired. If you are in a union, be sure to contact your union representative to see if they will help you grieve your termination.

If your employer has fired you for an illegal reason in violation of California law, you may have a wrongful termination claim. Contact a knowledgeable San Francisco employment lawyer to find out whether you may be able to pursue damages. McCormack Law Firm can advise you of your legal rights.

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