Exceptions to at-will employment laws can result in wrongful termination

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

California’s at-will employment laws permit employers in California have a legal right to terminate an employee for any legal reason. However, if an employee was fired for discriminatory reasons or in breach of their employment contract, they may have a valid claim for wrongful termination.

Exceptions to at-will laws for termination

Employers may fire or layoff an employee at-will, as long as they can cite legal reasons for the termination. Some of these reasons may include:

  • Failure to follow company policies
  • Poor work performance
  • Attendance issues or chronic tardiness
  • Criminal behavior in the workplace (theft, assault)

There are a few exceptions to the at-will rule, stating that an employer cannot terminate your employment if the termination:

  • Violates your employment contract which states you can only be fired for good cause
  • Violates public policy
  • Is discriminatory in nature (based on your race, gender, age, disability, etc.)
  • Is retaliation for participating in legally protected activity (filing EEOC complaint, reporting safety violations to OSHA, etc.)

Filing a wrongful termination claim

Losing a job can be devastating, especially when you know your termination was unlawful. An labor and employment law attorney can help you file your wrongful termination claim and gather the necessary evidence to prove your case. Filing a claim against your former employer is often the best way to recover damages for lost wages (back pay and front pay), costs of job searches, and emotional distress. Documentation of your work performance, correspondence with supervisors or coworkers, witness testimony, and other evidence can be used to help establish that you were terminated for illegal reasons.


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