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Wrongful termination and at-will employment law

Countless members of the Los Angeles workforce have encountered the term "at-will employment" during their careers. This extremely common phrase can affect almost anyone working in California, from executive professionals to entry-level hourly workers. It is sometimes erroneously assumed that the term means a worker has no recourse when it comes to wrongful termination. This is not true, as there are numerous laws and regulations regarding the reasons for hiring and firing an employee in California.

According to California's labor code, employment that does not involve a specified length of time is assumed to be at-will. Theoretically, at-will employment means that the employer can choose to the end the working relationship at any time and for any reason. While this is the theory underlying at-will employment, many exceptions have been created by lawmakers and judges over the years. For example, an employer may not illegally discriminate when it comes to firing, nor may an employer terminate someone simply for participating in a union. Likewise, a California employer cannot fire someone solely for refusing to perform an illegal activity.

Consequently, someone who has been fired and suspects wrongful dismissal is likely to feel confused and in need of answers. Were they fired for lawful reasons? Was their dismissal an act of illegal discrimination? Were there any exceptions to their at-will employment? A Los Angeles wrongful discrimination attorney can answer these questions and many more.

At-will employment is often emphasized during the hiring process, from job announcements to interviews and beyond, so that workers don't falsely expect permanent job security. This emphasizing may also be done to protect employers from lawsuits. Most employers, though, have little to fear as they follow the law and need to retain good workers. For employers who discriminate, though, they can be held accountable for their actions. A local employment law firm can offer consultations to those affected by wrongful discharge.

Source:, "At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination," accessed Feb. 27, 2016

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Law Offices of Allan A. Sigel, P.C.

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