At-will employment means that you can be terminated for any reason, no reason or arbitrary reason with or without notice, except for firings due to illegal workplace discrimination or retaliation. In this type of employment relationship, the law provides the freedom to both employers and employees to end their relationship a any time for any reason, subject to the above limitations. Most private sector employees in California are “at-will” employees.
As an at-will employee, you can also quit your job for any reason with or without notice. Even though the common practice is to give an employer anywhere from one to several weeks notice when resigning, this is not required by law and is mostly done to preserve your good name and professional reputation. Otherwise, theoretically you can walk off the job at any moment, just like the employer can have you leave your job and never come back at any moment as well.
If you are an employee at a private company, and you are not a local union member or have a contract to be employed for a specified period of time, you are probably an at-will employee. Many, if not most Sacramento employees who work for state and county agencies are not at-will employees, as they are members of the union or permanent civil service employees or both. Your handbook likely states whether you are an at-will employee or not. If it doesn’t and you work for a private employer, the presumption is that you are. Sometimes, the at-will employment status of an employee is not clear and it’s one of the issues that can and should be challenged in certain wrongful termination cases.
Employers Often Misunderstand / Misinterpret The At-Will Employment Concept
Many employers “forget” the above-mentioned limitation on at-will employment. They terminate an at-will employee for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, hoping that the employee will not be able to prove a wrongful termination claim. They are often told by their attorneys that they are free to legally fire an at-will employee as they please and when they please, which is only true in some cases, as noted above, but not in others.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated in the Sacramento area due to unlawful workplace discrimination or retaliation, regardless of your status as an at-will employee, feel free to contact us to discuss your potential case and your legal options.