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, employees 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 you even if you are an at-will employee.

Retaliation

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. You 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 terminated for engaging in this type of conduct.

Whistleblower Claims

It is also illegal for an employer, or future employer, to retaliate against you for reporting your reasonable belief that your employer is engaging in fraudulent or illegal behavior. Protected complaints may include those to your 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.