Most California jobs are at-will. As discussed in a prior post, at-will means employees can be fired at any time, for almost any reason – regardless if the reason is true or valid — or for no reason at all. If you are unsure whether your job is at-will, start by reviewing your employment contract, employee handbook, and any other paperwork distributed or signed during the hiring process. Usually those documents will indicate whether your employment is at-will.
MY CONTRACT DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT. DOES THAT MEAN I CAN ONLY BE FIRED FOR CA– USE?
Even if you can’t find any “at-will” language in your paperwork, your employment may still be at-will because California law presumes that employees are at-will unless shown otherwise.
Generally employees are not at-will if employers indicate – verbally or in writing – that:
- Employees cannot be fired without good cause
- Employees can only be fired for specific reasons
- Employees are being hired to work for a specific length of time
So, for example, if your contract states that you can only be fired for committing a crime or receiving subpar reviews, your job is not at-will.
MY CONTRACT SAYS MY JOB IS AT-WILL, BUT MY BOSS SAID THAT I WOULD ALWAYS HAVE A JOB IF I CONTINUED TO WORK HARD. DOES THAT MEAN MY JOB ISN’T AT-WILL?
California law generally views employment relationships as at-will even when employers make conflicting statements to the contrary.
Lighthearted promises or guarantees of long-term employment can be construed by California courts to mean the employment relationship is not at-will.
- “You’ll always have a place here, as long as you keep up the great work”
- “We look forward to working with you over the next several years”
- “We are so happy to have you on board to complete this project”
But if employers also indicate – particularly in writing – that the relationship is at-will, California courts will likely find an at-will relationship, despite the conflicting promises and guarantees of long-term employment.
Because this post only briefly discuses at-will employment under California law, you need to consult a lawyer if you feel your rights have been violated. Should you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.