CALIFORNIA’S PRESUMPTION OF “AT-WILL” EMPLOYMENT
The California Labor Code presumes that employment is at the will of the parties and allows both the employer and the employee to terminate the relationship without any reason or notice if there is no agreement to the contrary (Labor Code § 2922).
Under California law, employment is “at will” by default and an employer can generally dismiss an employee for no reason and without notice. However, there are many circumstances when the employment relationship is protected and the “at will” presumption can be rebutted.
The following factors may alter an employee’s “at will” status:
A Contract or Agreement (whether oral, written or implied)
Employee Handbooks, Manuals or Other Printed Materials
Company Policies & Status of Co-workers
Whether an employee is protected or is an “at will” employee is not always clear, and the employer’s view of the situation is not determinative. The answer to the question requires a detailed analysis of all of the surrounding circumstances.
PROHIBITED GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION
Even though “at will” employment allows termination for NO reason, it does not allow for termination for the WRONG reason. The following is a list of prohibited grounds for termination:
Race, color, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or disability
Refusal to work in an unsafe environment
Missing work for voting, jury duty or family or medical leave
Making a workers’ compensation claim
Whistle-blowing or retaliation related to employer misconduct