It is a common belief that if an employee is discharged from his or her position without a valid reason, that this particular employee has grounds for suing. Unfortunately, in the state of California, this is inaccurate.
Most employment contracts in the state of California have what is commonly known as an At Will clause within the agreement. This means that the supervisor or other employee-overseeing agent can discharge a worker for any reason or for no reason at all. While this can be surprising to many, At Will employment contracts give employee supervisors the authority and permission to discharge employees at their discretion. Even discharging those employees that they perceive to be no longer performing up to standard, among many other reasons is common. While At Will employment can seem very standard and provide little to no support for you case, this does not apply to every employee’s termination incident. After all, there are exceptions to At Will contracts. Employers, supervisors, and all other employee overseeing agents are not permitted to violate employee rights or employment laws. This means that an employee cannot be discharged from a position based on discriminatory practices. To do so would be considered illegal.
Exceptions to At Will Employee Contracts
There are various employee rights that are, for the most part, legally protected. A workplace supervisor cannot discriminate employees on the basis of age, sex, race, disability, or national origin, among other individual factors. Further, if an employee has reported on his or her supervisor for committing an act of crime, employers cannot single out and discriminate that employee. Much less retaliate against that employee and discharge them of his or her position for practicing what is also known as whistle blowing. To further explain, whistle blowing can pertain to the following examples:
Contacting an agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to bring forth unnecessary workplace hazards, unhealthy employee exposures, issues with employee safety or other workplace violations.
Another leading example in which employees cannot be discriminated against and thus be wrongfully dismissed is if the employee has engaged in certain protected activities. An example of a protected activity can be an employee who has filed for a workers-compensation claim. If you or a loved one has been fired from a job based on unlawful and discriminatory practices, there might be an opportunity to seek compensation.
Having an Employee Contract
Having an employee contract can be a very important factor as to when you can and cannot be discharged from a position. If any worker has an agreement with his or her employer, the employee most likely cannot be terminated without just cause. Just cause refers to the notion that an employer needs a valid reason as to why an employee should be terminated. One of the most common ways an employee can obtain an agreement with his or her employer is if the employee belongs to a worker’s union. Without a contract, it is likely that employer supervisors can terminate workers for almost any cause. This includes the simple notion of not liking the persona of the employee in question.
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