Employment in California is presumed to be terminable “at will”, meaning terminable by either party, at any time, with or without cause. In California this presumption is codified. “An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other. Employment for a specified term means an employment for a period greater than one month.” Labor Code §2922.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment
There are exceptions to the at-will employment presumptions. For example there are statutory limitations on at-will terminations such as:
- anti-retaliation and whistleblower statutes;
- anti-harassment and discrimination statutes;
- leave of absence statutes; and
- labor code protections.
There are public policy limitations on at-will termination. There are also express and implied contract limitations to at-will termination. The result is a wrongful termination.
Employers need not affirmatively terminate employees to incur liability. If an employee’s resignation is because of “working conditions … so intolerable or aggravated … that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign,” the employer can be liable for “constructive termination.” The conditions must be sufficiently extraordinary and egregious to overcome the normal motivation of a competent, reasonable employee to remain on the job.
Misrepresentation Preventing Future Employment
Employers may not make misrepresentations to prevent or attempt to prevent former employees from obtaining employment.
Defamation claims frequently coincide with wrongful termination claims. For example, defamation can arise as a result of explanations given to co-workers or others about a termination, or the former employee may claim that he or she was terminated as a result of a false statement. To prove defamation the plaintiff must prove:
- There was a false;
- Unprivileged state of fact;
- About the plaintiff;
- That is published to a third party; or
- That causes damage to the plaintiff
If you, or anyone you know believes they are the victims of a wrongful termination they should contact an experienced wrongful termination attorney today.