California is an at-will state; can I be wrongfully terminated?

In California, you’re protected by laws that won’t allow for you to be terminated due to discrimination or whistleblowing. Although California is an at-will employment state, you’re still protected against discrimination, and you can’t be terminated from your job due to race, culture, or other factors.

Here’s an example. If you’re an African-American worker, then an employer who is racist can’t decide to fire you or not hire you simply due to your skin color. The same is true if the employer decides not to hire you because you’re female, pregnant, Asian, Arabic, Christian, Buddhist, and so on.

You can’t be discriminated against because of your gender or sexual preferences. If you are gay, for instance, there’s no reason that your employer should fire you because of your personal sexual preferences. It does not interfere with your work, just like being heterosexual does not interfere with work in the workplace.

Here’s another example. If you start a job when you’re not pregnant but become pregnant later, your employer should not fire you simply for carrying a child. You can’t be discriminated against for pregnancy, and there is a federal law in your favor. Instead, your employer should work with you to make your job effective; you can be offered a chair, for instance, to sit during a shift instead of standing, or you could be offered some workdays when you can stay home.

You can’t be terminated from your job because you’re in a union or because you won’t perform an act that violates the laws of the state or country. If your employer eliminates you for those reasons, then you can claim wrongful discharge and file a claim with the help of your attorney.

Source: Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, “At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination,” accessed Oct. 01, 2015

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