If a California resident is employed on an at-will basis, it means that this person or his or her employer may terminate a working relationship for any reason. Unless otherwise stated, all employment relationships are presumed to be at-will except in Montana. However, employers do not have the right to wrongfully terminate a worker regardless of what the relationship is between the worker and the company.
There are some cases in which an individual may not be subject to the terms of at-will employment. For instance, employers may make statements or take other actions that result in an implied employment contract. Under such a scenario, a business would need to follow specific steps to terminate an employee. If a covenant of good faith exists, an employer must generally have a just cause for firing that person. Employees may also be protected by public policy exemptions.
This occurs when terminating an individual's employment would go against a known public policy in a state. An example of this would be a provision that doesn't allow a worker to be terminated for filing a workers' compensation claim or for failing to commit an illegal act. Wrongful termination may also occur if a worker has been let go in violation of state or federal laws related to discrimination in the workplace.
Companies that fail to follow relevant state or federal employment law could face a variety of consequences. For example, workers who were wrongfully terminated may be able to pursue compensation for back pay and the value of benefits lost. They may also be able to ask for their old jobs back if they want them. An attorney may be able to review an employment law case to determine whether to settle the matter informally or through a jury trial.