Although employment contracts are generally terminable at will, California courts recognize a narrow exception to this rule where an employer’s reason for termination violates public policy. Despite an employment contract that allows for termination at will, the courts have determined that it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee for numerous reasons, including the following:
- on the basis of prohibited characteristics (race, nationality, gender, age, etc.)
- in violation of his or her right to take unpaid leave under the California Family Rights Act
- for protesting unsafe working conditions
- for refusing to sign a covenant not to compete with the employer
- for signing a non-competition agreement with a former employer
- for refusing to sign a document releasing the employer from liability for future fraud and intentional acts
- for the employee’s political activity, including political speech
- for discussing his or her wages with coworkers
It is also contrary to public policy for an employer to:
- fail to promptly pay wages due to an employee
- fail to pay minimum wage
- retaliate against an employee who discloses an employer's misappropriation of public funds to a government agency
- discriminate against or discharge an employee based on the employee taking time off (after reasonable notice to the employer) to appear in court as a witness
Our attorneys have extensive experience in wrongful termination disputes.
Learn more about our employment practice, including representative cases in this area. Contact GED to discuss how we may be of service in your wrongful termination matter.