Many employees are in complete shock when pulled into an office and fired from a job without warning. Generally, an employer may terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all. This is referred to as “at-will” employment. However, employers often do not realize that there are several exceptions to the at-will policy.
For example, an employer can modify the at-will employment relationship by an express or implied agreement to only terminate an employee for cause. Also, statutory and public policy exceptions to the at-will policy make it unlawful for an employer to fire an employee even if they are an at-will employee.
California law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in a protected activity. Protected activities include filing a complaint of discrimination, participating in another employee’s claim of discrimination against the employer, participating in union activity, refusing to engage in unlawful activity, taking medical leave, filing a workers’ compensation claim, and engaging in lawful activities during non-work hours. Employees also may not be retaliated against for refusing to participate in conduct that would violate state, local, or federal law. Contact us immediately if you believe you have been accused of terminating an employee for engaging in this type of conduct.
It is also illegal for an employer, or future employer, to retaliate against an employee for reporting the employee’s reasonable belief that their employer is engaging in fraudulent or illegal behavior. Protected complaints may include those to the employer directly (e.g. human resources), the government, law enforcement, or a governmental agency. Damages for whistleblower claims include a potential $10,000 civil penalty for each violation (i.e., phone usage, uniforms, equipment, and travel expenses).
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