Rights Of Employees Under At-Will Employment

At-Will Employment

The “employment at will” doctrine is followed by the majority of states, including California. This indicates that, in the absence of an agreement (via a union or otherwise), an employee can be fired for any reason or without a reason at all.

Employees have very few provisions against termination when they are employed at will. Employers can and frequently do take unwarranted or arbitrary actions. They fire employees for ridiculous reasons as well as for reasons that have very little or nothing to do with an employee’s worth or their job performance.

Employment at will is evidently not in the best interests of the employee. In reality, at-will employment might not even be in the best interests of the employer.

Although the ideology allows employers to terminate employees for arbitrary reasons, employment at will does not imply that employees have no rights.

The at-will employment in California, like many other states in the US, has two major exceptions.

Top 7 Employee Rights That Come Under At-Will Employment

1. Public Policy:

Any act in which an employee is working that is recognized as a public service restricts an employer from taking punitive action against that employee. This may appear broad.

However, there are generally only a few examples that you are likely to come across if this exception occurs. When an employee wants to take time off from work to appear on jury duty, this is a common occurrence.

As an employer, you must allow employees to serve as jurors. Other examples include service in the military, whistleblowing, and filing an employee’s compensation claim. These are all actions that employees are free to engage in without fear of retaliation from their employers.

2. The Exception To Implied Contract:

The implied contract principle is the second exception to the at-will doctrine. This exception is recognized by forty-one states.  A clear and specific contract is one in which the parties expressly state what they consent to do.

An implied contract, on the contrary, is a legally enforceable agreement that is formed through the words and deeds of the employer and the employee rather than through official contract negotiation and supporting documents.

The conduct that creates the implied contract could be an oral promise from the employer that an employee will keep a job so long as he or she does great work.

If these promises are reasonably relied on, they may result in a valid contract consideration—good work is equivalent to continued employment, preventing employers from taking any adverse action.

Implied Contract

In addition to the above exceptions, there are additional statutory exceptions for at-will employees:

3. Anti Discrimination Law:

Discrimination based on several protected characteristics, including race, gender, sexual preference, impairment, and age, is prohibited under federal law. You cannot be fired because of one of those characteristics, regardless of whether you are an at-will employee.

4. Union Activity Protection Acts:

Employers are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act from interfering with employees’ exercise of collective bargaining rights, including unionization.

Employees being fired for exercising their collective bargaining rights would violate the law. As a result, an employer may not generally fire or threaten to fire employees for intending to unionize or participate in union activities.

Activity Protection Acts

5. Whistleblower Retaliation Protection Acts

Employees are generally allowed to report certain illegal behaviors without fear of repercussions from their employer. In other words, employers are not permitted to retaliate against employees who report certain types of misconduct. This adds another constraint to at-will employment.

Employees are protected from whistleblowing if they provide information to law enforcement or government agency about a breach of state or federal law. Breaches of state or federal law can result in a variety of actions, such as discriminatory practices, unsafe workspaces, or filing false claims for government payments.

6. Timely Salary:

 An employee has a right to a salary at the end of every month. An employer is required to pay an employee’s salary after making the appropriate deductions such as appropriate taxes, and so on.

A salaried employee can retain the services of a labor lawyer to take appropriate legal action against the employer for neglecting to pay a salary.

7. Protection from Sexual Harassment:

 It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees, particularly women, are protected from all forms of harassment. Any sexual harassment incident involving an employee must be addressed immediately.

The employer must implement a company policy forbidding sexual harassment at the office and form a redressal committee to handle any cases of workplace sexual harassment.

employment laws


Labor and employment laws are intricate. They are, however, critical in protecting yourself from workplace discrimination, harassment, and exploitation. If you believe your rights are being violated, you can contact Lawyers at Justice, PC, who understand all aspects of at-will employment law and can help fight for your rights.


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