Some employees in California and elsewhere – often managerial or other upper-level workers – have lengthy and tailored employment agreements that spell out in detail key elements of their relationship with an employer. Central provisions within such contracts often set forth the terms and conditions that will be legally guiding in the instance of job termination.
Such is not routinely the case for the bulk of America’s workforce. In fact, most employees across the country engage in work pursuant to a so-called “at-will” relationship with management. What that means is that an employer can essentially release a worker at any time and for any reason, without legal repercussions.
Many people are surprised to hear that, and regard an at-will contractual relationship as conferring an absolute one-sided power on an employer.
That might ostensibly seem to be the case, but it is in fact not true. Termination linked with an at-will relationship comes with one key caveat.
And that is this: Job termination must not be for an illegal reason.
Candidly, an employer’s motivation is not always easy to perceive. Some company bosses couch terminations in a pretextual way. For example, they might cite subpar performance, when the real reason for a termination was grounded in aversion to something like a worker’s race, religion or sexual orientation.
Questions or concerns regarding a job termination should be directed to a proven employment law attorney. A lengthy list of federal and state protections exists to safeguard workers from discriminatory workplace behavior. A number of categories are “protected” under relevant laws, meaning that a worker cannot be terminated because he or she fits within one or more of those classifications. In addition to the above-cited classifications, protected categories include sex, ethnic origin, disability, pregnancy and medical conditions.
Experienced legal counsel can provide further information.