Who Can File A Wrongful Termination Claim In California?

Updated: Jan 28

Wrongful Termination Claims For Different Types Of California Employees


Wrongful Termination Claims in California protect workers from getting fired for illegal reasons. However, "At-Will" workers, who work at their employer's discretion, might be confused as to whether they can qualify for Wrongful Termination Claims.


The short answer is yes. Even "At-Will" employees are protected from getting fired for illegal reasons. So let's discuss your employment rights in California, particularly in cases of termination:


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Who Can File A Claim For Wrongful Termination?


When it comes to wrongful termination, whether you signed a contract or worked as an "at-will" employee will determine whether you are eligible to submit a claim.


Here's the difference:

  1. Employees on Contracts. An employment contract is defined as a written agreement between an employer and an employee that outlines the terms of the employee's employment as well as the grounds for terminating it. If you are fired before the number of months or years your contract says you'll work with the employer, then it might be considered a breach.

  2. At-Will Workers. If there is no employment contract in effect, the job status defaults to at-will employment. If the employee is not in a protected class, at-will work means that any party can end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. As a result, many unfair termination lawsuits stem from the termination of someone in that covered class who is also an at-will employee.

However, both types of employees have the right to be protected against being fired on illegal grounds. While at-will employees may not be able to sue for breach of contract (since there are no contracts in the first place), they can still file a Wrongful Termination claim if they were fired for reasons that were not justified.


So while you may be working at your employer's discretion, you might still have valid grounds for wrongful termination. Employers can fire at-will employees for no reason. Still, they cannot fire employees as an act of discrimination, retaliation, or a violation of public policy.

What Is At-Will Employment and How Does It Work?

Workers or employees who are not covered by a union or other employment contracts in the United States are generally working at will. In essence, it means that a worker can quit at any moment and for any cause. Likewise, employers can fire them for any reason (again, save discrimination and retaliation).

So, even if you work at the whim of your boss, you have some protection against improper employment decisions. At-will employees, for example, can be legally fired if their manager doesn't like their attitude. On the other hand, the same manager cannot fire an at-will employee for discriminating against their protected qualities.

According to California Labor Code 2922, every employee in California is considered "at-will" unless the parties involved agree otherwise or there is an applicable exception. It's worth mentioning that many contract employees are still considered "at-will" since their contracts state so (the employers make sure of it).

Yes, at-will employees are still protected from being fired for illegal grounds. Contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles if you need assistance or more information on the subject. They can help you map out your present employment situation and find legal remedies to a probable California Employment Law wrongful termination case.

Exceptions to the Rule of At-Will Employment

There are exceptions to the at-will employment provision known as "implied contracts." These agreements can be verbal, or the courts may examine both parties' activities to see if there was an understanding that the employee would not be fired without cause.


Consider the case below:

  • Various reasons for termination are listed in an employee handbook, such as poor job performance or misconduct. In addition, the company has a policy of retaining employees on board as long as their job performance is sufficient.

  • If an employee with good ratings and no reports of wrongdoing is fired to make way for the owner's nephew, the employee may be eligible to file a wrongful termination claim. This is because, based on the standards and current practices, the person would have reasonably anticipated keeping their job.

  • If a recently fired employee can demonstrate that they were employed under an express or implied contract, they may be able to claim wrongful termination on the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing exemption. According to this guideline, an employer must: