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At-will employment in California

The concept of at-will employment has grown increasingly prevalent over time because it allows both employer and employee a great amount of freedom in regard to termination and quitting. At-will employment essentially means that a person can be fired from the job at any time without warning, reasoning or explanation. It also means that the worker can quit whenever he or she wants, without reason. In California, the idea of at-will employment is modified by the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing applies to protect employees from termination for certain reasons. Specifically, employers are not allowed to fire employees in order to avoid legal responsibilities for things like retirement compensation, paying commissions or providing health care.

Employers are also forbidden by state and federal law from terminating workers based on race, citizenship, gender, age or religion. There are statutes that protect workers against termination for whistleblowing or as retaliation for a legally-protected act. Workers may also have recourse thanks to contract provisions or company policy.

In some cases, an implied contract may exist between the employer and the employee. An implied contract is an agreement that exists without a legal document to memorialize it. Sometimes, company policy or employee handbooks can give rise to implied employment contracts.

Workers who believe they've been treated unfairly by their employers might be able to seek legal recourse. A lawyer with experience in employment law might be able to help by conducting interviews with witnesses and others or by negotiating a solution with the employer. Legal counsel could file a complaint for wrongful termination or argue on behalf of the client during civil court proceedings.

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