Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

What Does “Employment At Will” in California Mean?

“Employment at will” is a complex factor of employment laws in California for many employers and employees alike. The “at-will” concept suggests that you or your employer could terminate the job contract at will. This article explains this rule, its exceptions, and what they mean for employees and employers in Alaska.

The Meaning of the “At-Will” Employment Rule in California

In California, the principle of “at-will” employment forms the foundation of most employment relationships. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. This flexibility, however, is tempered by several key exceptions that protect employees from unjust termination​​.

The Meaning of “Implied Contract” Exception

One significant exception to the at-will rule is the implied contract exception. It arises when there is an unwritten, yet legally binding agreement between the employer and employee that suggests employment cannot be terminated without good cause.

Factors such as the employer’s personnel policies, duration of employment, and any assurances of continued employment can indicate the presence of an implied contract​​.

The Meaning of an Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Another layer of protection for employees is the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This unwritten promise requires all parties in a contract to act in good faith and deal fairly with one another. Violations of this covenant, such as firing an employee in bad faith or violation of company policies, can support a claim for wrongful termination​​.

The Meaning of “Public Policy” Exception to At-Will Employment

The public policy exception plays a crucial role in safeguarding employees who are terminated for reasons that violate important public policies. This includes being fired for refusing to break a law, performing a legal obligation, exercising a legal right, or reporting legal violations. The underlying policy must be fundamental, well-established, and serve the public interest​​.

Suing Your Employer for Fraud as a Result of Wrongful Termination

Fraud or misrepresentation is another viable exception to the at-will employment rule. This occurs when an employer makes false representations that lead to an employee suffering damages. With the help of employment lawyers in California, employees can sue for damages incurred due to accepting employment under pretenses or for losses related to wrongful termination​​.

Can More Than One Exception to At-Will Employment Apply To My Case?

It is not uncommon for more than one exception to apply in cases of wrongful termination. This means an employee’s situation might fall under multiple protected categories, providing them with several legal avenues to explore​​.

Can I Sue My Employer Under an Exception To At-Will Employment If I Resign?

In cases of constructive termination, where an employer makes working conditions intolerable, forcing an employee to resign, legal action is still possible. This is recognized under California’s wrongful constructive termination laws​​.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or are facing legal issues related to employment in California, consulting with a skilled employment lawyer can provide you with the guidance and representation necessary to maneuver should you face a lawsuit or need to file one.