Illegal Terminations Despite California’s “At-Will” Law

What "At-Will" Employment Means

You’ve probably heard that employment in California is “at will,” and that’s true—California Labor Code section 2922 provides that an employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other. An at-will employment may be ended by the employer or the employee at any time without cause, for any reason, as long as notice was given. Notice can be as simple as an employee saying, “I quit,” or an employer saying, “You’re fired.”

Illegal Terminations

Just because California is an “at-will” state does not mean an employer can fire you for any reason. There are numerous terminations that are still illegal:


  • Protected characteristics include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status


  • Reporting patient abuse
  • Reporting or opposing illegal conduct

Workplace Activities

  • Joining a labor union
  • Pursuing a workers' compensation claims
  • Refusing to participate in abortion
  • Pursuing claims with the Labor Commissioner

Problems at Home

  • Required appearance in school after child is suspended
  • Visiting child's school
  • Leave due to domestic violence

Political and Civic Activities

  • Service as an election officer on election day
  • Political activity
  • Serving on jury duty or participating as a witness

Criminal Record

  • Arrest or detention not resulting in a conviction

Activities Outside of Work

  • Military service
  • Performance of emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter


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