Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton
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Exceptions to California’s employment-at-will doctrine

The vast majority of people who live and work in California receive classifications as “at-will” employees, meaning they can leave a position, or conversely, have their employers fire them from a position, at virtually any time, and for virtually any reason. At the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton, we recognize that there are a number of exceptions that exist to the state’s at-will employment doctrine, and if your situation meets the terms of any of these exemptions and your employer terminates you anyway, you may have grounds for recourse.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, California’s employers typically do not have to have a valid reason or a fair or honest cause for firing you, unless you meet one or more of several clearly defined circumstances. So, what are the exceptions to California’s at-will employment doctrine?

California employers typically may not terminate workers who have contracts in place that outline the terms of their employment unless they have “good cause” for doing so. Public sector employees, too, are typically exempt from the concept of at-will employment due to civil service laws or agreements that exist between their unions and the organizations in charge of their disciplining them.

In some cases, employees who work under unions are also exempt from the concept of at-will employment. For example, many union workers have collective bargaining agreements in place that apply to them that dictate that their employers must have a valid reason for terminating them. Finally, if you are a California employee, and your employer does something that overrides the presumption of employment at will, this, may, too, mean you are no longer an at-will employee. You can find more about wrongful termination on our webpage.

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