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Can At Will Employees Sue Their Employers In California?

Updated: Oct 26

The Rights Of At Will Workers In California Employment Law

The right to terminate an employee's employment at any time and for any cause exists when they are employed at will. Employees are also free to leave their jobs at any moment, with or without cause, under the terms of at-will employment.


According to the California Labor Code, parties may terminate an unfixed-term employment relationship by giving the other party notice. However, an "at-will" employment agreement does not grant employees any legal rights or protections. Thus they can theoretically be fired at any time, even without cause.


The "at-will" employment contract includes several safeguards against unjust dismissal. In addition, verbal agreements, legal exceptions, or public policy may refute the assumption that employment is at will.

In other words, even though you choose to work at-will, you cannot be fired for illegal reasons. Let's look at how prescreened California Employment Lawyers handle these at will exemptions:


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Your Employer Cannot Terminate You For Illegal Reasons

Employers are prohibited by law from firing employees in states where this exemption is recognized if the reason for the firing contravenes established public policy. For example, it is against generally accepted public policy for management to fire a worker for submitting a workers' compensation claim.

According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it would be illegal to fire a worker because of a protected class . In all conditions and circumstances of employment, the FEHA protects employees from harassment, retaliation, and discrimination based on any of the following:

Retaliation for filing a complaint, supporting someone else in filing a complaint, or objecting to any action at work that could be interpreted as a violation of the FEHA is prohibited under the FEHA.

Lastly, if a company fired an employee for refusing to partake in an illegal action that the employer demanded, this exception would not apply. If you've been dismissed unfairly or experienced discrimination at work, contact a reputable Employment Attorneys in Los Angeles.


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Your Employer Needs To Uphold Implied Contracts

Implied contracts can alter the nature of at-will employment because employers cannot terminate employees with whom they have an implied contract. Because of implied agreements formed by the employer and the employee's behaviors and remarks, the employee believes he cannot be fired at will.

The verbal or written announcements often cover job security and what to do if an employee is subjected to disciplinary action (such as discipline or termination). These could be located in an employee handbook, procedure, or manual.


If you require assistance identifying your legal foundation for asserting claims, speak with your prescreened California Employment Attorney.

Exceptions According To Good Faith and Fair Dealing In California

This only holds true if your employment contract explicitly states that your company has the right to fire you. The Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, for example, protects employees by acknowledging that an employer cannot fire a worker to avoid fulfilling their obligations, such as by terminating your employment to deny you benefits to which you would otherwise be entitled under your employment contract.


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