California has many strong workplace protections that benefit people in a variety of different professions. The state is a leader in worker rights legislation. Despite expanded worker protections and enhanced overtime rules, California is still an at-will employment state.
Either a business or a worker can terminate an employment arrangement at any time and without advanced warning. The end of a work agreement usually won’t result in consequences for either party. There doesn’t even need to be a reason for the employer’s decision to terminate someone’s job.
Do the rules for at-will employment make it impossible to file a wrongful termination lawsuit?
Employers can still make wrongful decisions
Despite what many people assume about at-will employment, businesses must still comply with state and federal laws. There are an assortment of scenarios in which terminating a worker would be a violation of their rights. The workers fired in these situations may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
For example, perhaps the worker recently engaged in a protected workplace activity. They began organizing a union with their co-workers, reported harassment or requested unpaid leave due to medical issues. Firing a worker after they conduct protected activities could constitute illegal retaliation.
Additionally, employers should not consider protected characteristics when deciding who to retain or fire. Those protected characteristics include someone’s race, age, religion and medical condition. If the company fires someone because of a protected characteristic or terminates numerous people who share the same characteristic, a termination might have been wrongful.
Understanding what kinds of firings the law permits and disallows may help workers determine if they have grounds to take action against a company.