California is an at-will employment state. Although companies can create durational employment contracts that address employment for a specific number of years, it is possible for either party to end that contract ahead of time.
Under at-will employment laws, workers and the companies that employ them have the right to end an employment agreement at any time. In fact, a company terminating a worker doesn’t even have to have a reason to fire them. Does at-will employment mean that you will never have a claim for wrongful termination when working in California?
A company doesn’t need a reason to fire you, but they can’t fire you for an illegal reason
Companies are free to make hiring and firing decisions based on any factors that they see fit, provided they do not violate the law or discriminate against certain populations. It is crucial that you understand that a company cannot fire you or take other punitive steps against you because of a medical condition or your decision to report harassment on the job to the company.
Workers with medical conditions deserve accommodations under both state and federal law. Workers who draw company or government attention to wrongful business practices also have protection as whistleblowers. Companies should not retaliate against those who stand up for themselves or others.
When a termination occurs that is clearly retaliatory because you made a report or immediately after you’ve asked for reasonable accommodations, you may have experienced a wrongful termination.
There are additional circumstances that could also constitute wrongful termination, as California’s at-will employment law does not give employers the right to mistreat, retaliate against or discriminate against their workers due to race, gender or other reasons covered under discrimination laws. An experienced attorney can provide more guidance based on your specific circumstances.