Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About at-Will Employment in Los Angeles
It's important for employers in Los Angeles to understand the complexities of the concept of at-will employment3 min read
It's important for employers in Los Angeles to understand the complexities of the concept of at-will employment. This legal provision originates from the landmark case of California Supreme court and affects the majority of employment contracts in the state.
As a business owner and employer in Los Angeles, being aware of the strict legal regulations regarding at-will employment will help protect you from costly lawsuits or legal liabilities. Here, we will address some of the most frequently asked questions about at-will employment in Los Angeles.
What is at-will employment?
At-will employment is an arrangement whereby the employer gives no guarantees of job security or conditions to the employee beyond the specified duration of the job. In other words, the employer can freely choose to dismiss the employee without warning or explanation, provided that they cite no incriminating factors like race, gender, or religion.
However, in the state of California as well as in many other states, this doctrine of at-will employment has been curtailed in favor of greater employee rights. This is because the California Supreme Court has ruled that exceptions to the doctrine do apply. The term “at-will” doesn’t actually mean that either the employer or employee can do anything they wish.
What are employees’ rights in Los Angeles when it comes to at-will employment?
Employees who do find themselves in this type of employment relationship are afforded certain legal rights that must be followed by the employer in the event of termination. Such rights include the termination process needing to be free from discrimination, the right to receive all wages/benefits owed to them, and the right to seek legal counsel if they believe their termination is illegal.
Employees may also purse legal action if they believe there was wrongful termination, or if the employer fails to state clear reasons for their termination. Additionally, employees may have rights beyond the at-will doctrine if they have an employment contract that specifies the terms of their employment in writing.
Can an employee be terminated at any time?
The short answer is no. Depending on the situation, there may be laws that protect the employee from being terminated at any time. In California, wrongful termination (and by extension, termination at any time that does not constitute a reprimand or meaningful discussion with the employee first) is prohibited.
An employer in Los Angeles is prohibited from terminating an employee for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, race, gender, religion, age (if the employee is 40 or older), or based on certain medical conditions. Additionally, employers may not terminate employees in retaliation for filing a valid complaint against them such as wage or hour violations.
What should employers do to protect themselves from legal liabilities?
The first thing that employers should do to protect themselves is to make sure that any employee handbook they have includes complete information on their policies and procedures for termination. Additionally, employers should keep accurate records of any performance review or disciplinary actions they take with employees so that they have proof in the event of a legal dispute.
Furthermore, employers should always properly and clearly document any termination so that both parties can agree to it in court and provide evidence of why the termination was valid. Ultimately, employers should seek legal counsel if they believe that they need assistance in understanding and following relevant laws and regulations surrounding at-will employment.