If not all, the majority of professional workers in the state of California are considered “at-will” employees. According to California's Labor Code 3922, “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.” This means that either employer or employee is legally allowed to terminate their employment anytime for reasons they see fit. This is to ensure that neither of the parties would have their hands at each other's neck. The employer can terminate on his/her jurisdiction, and the employee can opt to end his/her employment on his/her accords – as long as both parties follow the proper labor procedures.
This employment system is usually seen as a great working system because, in theory, this puts more focus on the merits of the employees rather than a collective agreement. Ideally, it should focus more on the workers' abilities and capacities with little to no regard on seniority; this means that only the best employees will be left because the employer can legally terminate the ones he/she thinks did not meet the expected standards. That premise will make all the employees work harder and the employer will keep a close eye on his/her workforce to make sure they get compensated fairly, based on their efforts. Initially, this system reduces the unnecessary nuances that are binding the employers and employees. However, this structure also has its fair share of disadvantages. One of the many cons of this structure is that it tends to regulate the workforce to an extreme. Since the employer has the legal right to terminate anyone who did not meet the company's standards, this means that the number of employees cannot be consistent in the hands of an overly picky employer – it creates an unstable workforce. It would add people to the already growing number of unemployed.
The freedom to hire and fire that at-will employment brings, like all things, also have its limitations. Yes, the code says as long as the termination is done ahead of time, depending on the specifications written or implied in the contracts; however, there are exceptions to this rule. Some of the exceptions include:
- Protected Characteristics – An employer cannot fire an employee because of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
- Political Ideologies – An employer cannot fire an employee because of their political beliefs and/or affiliations.
- Worker's rights – An employer cannot fire an employee because he/she demanded for privileges that he/she is rightfully entitled to like leaves (e.g., sick leave, maternity/paternity leave) or compensations (e.g., raises or promotions).
- Whistleblowing – An employer cannot fire an employee because he/she reported an alleged violation or acted as a witness to the violations committed by the company or any of its other employees (i.e., sexual harassment, bribery, and illegal affiliations).
- Implied Contract – An employer cannot fire the employee for any reason other than the mentioned above as long it has been implied in the contract.
Legal disputes in the workplace is not an uncommon scenario. Most of these altercations usually revolve around the topic of contracts, workloads, etc. One of the most common legal disputes is about the terms of relieving or terminating employees. If one ever faces such legal conundrums, it would be their best decision to immediately consult a law professional because by doing so, the conflict can be fixed immediately. A lawyer can help resolve legal disputes and/or settle compensations that would benefit all the parties involved. It would be the attorney's goal to aid the client in dealing with all the legal documents and bindings that are holding them back (i.e., unjust compensation, unjust termination, and unjust work treatment.). This is the best course of action to take in an “At-Will'' working environment because it would be the lawyer's job to uphold the rights that are legally made to help the client's (employer or employee's) needs.
If you or someone you know ever needed legal support regarding any work-related issues (i.e., wrongful termination, overtime work, labor abuse, etc.) it would be of your best interest to seek professional help from our criminal defense lawyers at the office or Raoul Severo.
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