If you’ve recently been fired, you may be wondering if your employer really had the right to do so — especially if the reason seemed unfair or outright ridiculous.
The reality is that most employees in the country are considered “at-will” employees. That essentially means that they can walk away from a job whenever, for any reason. It also means that their employer can usually fire them whenever, for any reason.
That reason just can’t be something that violates the law. If it does, that’s considered wrongful termination.
Here’s essentially how it works:
Your employer cannot fire you because he or she doesn’t like the color of the car that you drive, doesn’t agree with your political ideology or doesn’t like your new tattoos.
He or she cannot fire you for belonging to any class or group of people that are protected under any local, state or federal laws. Protected classes include (but may not be limited to) gender, religion, race, national origin and sexual orientation.
Your employer also cannot fire you if the termination would somehow violate the public interest. For example, you can’t be fired in retaliation for asking for reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), filing for workers’ compensation, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about discriminatory treatment or refusing to do something illegal at his or her employer’s request.
Finally, you may have some protection from having your job abruptly terminated for no good reason under either an implied contract or good faith exception.
Implied contracts exist when an employer makes promises to his or her employees that basically ensure job security as long as a certain standard of behavior is maintained. Something as simple as a manual that outlines the company’s disciplinary policy for infractions may create that implied contract. An employer then has to follow his or her own rules before you can be fired.
California is one of the few states to recognize “good faith” as a factor between employees and employers. It essentially looks at the overall sense of fairness in the firing — asking questions about whether or not the firing was justified given the employee’s work history, prior performance reviews and the employer’s own policies. It is quite similar to implied contracts.
If you believe your employer violated the law by firing you, let a a wrongful termination attorney provide guidance.
Source: FindLaw, “At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination,” accessed Sep. 15, 2017