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What are some exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine?

California is an at-will employment state, which essentially means that your employer has the right to terminate you at any time, and for almost any reason. Similarly, as an at-will employee, you have the right to leave or quit your job at virtually any time, and for any reason. There are some important exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, however, and if your employer violates your rights in this regard, you may be able to seek recourse.

Per The Balance, while your employer may be able to fire you because he or she no longer wishes to, for example, maintain your position, he or she may not terminate your employment for any reason that interferes with your protected rights. In other words, he or she cannot fire you because of your color, religious preference, age, disability, sexual orientation or what have you.

Your employer also may not terminate you because you chose to “blow the whistle” about suspected wrongdoing in your place of business. Such an act may constitute retaliation, and if you are a victim of it, you may be able to hold your employer accountable in court. Additionally, your employer may not fire you if you have an existing employment contract in place, regardless of whether that contract is written or implied. An “implied contract” is one that is not an actual, legal document, and it can be difficult to prove that this type of contract exists. In some cases, employees produce information contained in employee handbooks or policies as evidence of an implied contract.

This information about exceptions to California’s at-will employment doctrine is informative, but it is not a replacement for personal legal advice.

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