California Employment Labor Law
California “At Will” Doctrine / Wrongful Termination
In California, workers are presumed to be employed “at will.” This means that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship for any reason with no liability. California Labor Code § 2922 states as follows: 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 employment for a period greater than one month.
The presumption of California “at will” employment may be overcome with evidence of a breach of contract or a violation of public policy. California allows an employee to bring a wrongful termination action when an employer breaches an implied or express promise of job security. The second exception to California “at will” employment is when an employer violates a statutory right of the employee. Examples include wrongful termination for refusal to perform an illegal act, taking family or medical leave, or filing a workers compensation claim. Although these labor law concepts can be quite complex, an experienced California employment law attorney would be able to review the potential of a wrongful termination claim related to either one.
California employment labor law is often a point of contention because it attempts to strike a balance between protecting California workers and allowing employers freedom in their business decisions. California has attempted to reach this balance by creating three broad categories of labor law for the California employee: employment discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation law.
California Employment Discrimination Law
California employers cannot base employment decisions on characteristics that are not job-related, including age, race, sex, religion, nationality, medical condition or disability, sexual orientation, or marital status. Federal protections include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Family Medical Leave Act. However, California employees are also protected by the more favorable Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which contains no cap on damages and a longer statute of limitations, among other advantages. If you are a victim of employment discrimination, our California employment attorneys are available to review your legal matter.
California Sexual Harassment Law
Sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when an employer maintains a policy or acquiesces in a practice of compelling employees to submit to the sexual advances of superiors. Conduct that is generally considered harassment includes making physical or verbal advances of a sexual nature and offering work-related benefits in exchange for sexual conduct. When this conduct is widespread and accepted throughout the workplace it may constitute a “hostile work environment.” If you are a California employee and are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, contact our California employment attorneys to discuss your potential claim.
California Retaliation Law
California labor law prohibits California employers from taking retaliatory action against employees for enforcing their legal rights, helping a co-worker assert their legal rights, or reporting to a government agency any activity they reasonably believe to be illegal. Employer actions that may constitute employment retaliation include termination of employment, a decrease in work hours, demotion, and assignment of undesirable job duties. California employees who believe they have been retaliated against can file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). However, it may be prudent to first seek the advice of a California employment attorney experienced in California retaliation claims and lawsuits.
If a California employer discharges or lays off a California employee for any of the aforementioned reasons, the action constitutes a “wrongful termination.” “Wrongful” means one or more of the employee’s legal rights were violated. California’s “at will” employment doctrine dictates that an employer-employee relationship can be terminated for any reason unless there is a breach of contract, discrimination, or retaliation.
Why contact an experienced California employment attorney? There are many nuances to the exceptions to “at will” employment. California employment labor law affords numerous protections to California workers, but they are often complex. Therefore, if you are a California employee and you believe your rights may have been violated, it is wise to consult a qualified California employment law attorney to determine if you have a potential claim against your employer. Our CA employment law attorneys do offer a free case evaluation and are available to assist you.