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What Does an At-Will Employee Mean?

Irvine business attorneys provide legal advice to companies and to workers in relation to the employee/employer relationship. It is important for both a hiring company and a worker who is brought on board at an organization to understand the nature of the relationship as well as the labor laws, anti-discrimination rules, and other regulations that affect employer and employee obligations. Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help to explain the myriad rules that apply and can also offer assistance in circumstances where problems arise and an employer or employee needs help asserting their rights or defending their interests. What Does an At-Will Employee Mean?

One of the first key things to know about the employer/employee relationship is the definition of at will employment. Whether an employee is considered to be at will or not can have a major impact on all other aspects of the relationship between the hiring company and the worker. Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can explain what it means to be at will and what the alternative are so you can better understand why this at will status is so important.

When conflicts arise between staff members and companies, we can also provide representation to the business or to the aggrieved worker, and will work with clients to determine whether or not the case will go forward under the presumption the employee was at will. To find out more about how our firm can help, give us a call today.

What Does it Mean for an Employee to Work at Will?

According to California Labor Code section 2922, when an employee is hired in California, the default is that the employee is hired at will. This means that the employer is free to fire the worker at any time and for any reason. It also means that the employee is free to quit at any time for any reason. As the relevant labor code section states: “An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other.”

An at-will employee is not working under a contract that specifies the employee will work for any specific duration of time. There is no rules or requirements mandating an employer follow a particular disciplinary procedure before terminating an at will worker. And, while it is customary and generally considered to be good practice for an employee to tell an employer at least two weeks before leaving a job, there is no requirement that an employee give notice before quitting. Either party can simply make the decision to end the employment relationship.

However, while an employer does not need to have a reason to fire an at will worker, the employer cannot act based on discrimination in violation of the employee’s civil rights. For example, an employer cannot fire the employee because of the employee’s race, gender, religion, age, national origin, gender identity, sexuality, or other protected status. An employer is also not allowed to terminate an employee for blowing the whistle on illegal activities, for making complaints about the safety of the work environment, for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or for certain other behaviors for which there are laws prohibiting retaliatory terminations.

If an employer acts unlawfully and fires an at will employee for a prohibited reason, the employee can pursue a wrongful termination claim. If the employee can prove that he was terminated in violation of worker protection rights, then the employer can be required to pay damages to the affected worker.

Getting Help from Irvine Business Attorneys

Just because an employee is at will does not mean that employers can do anything and everything that they want to the worker. There are still many other protections in place that aim to give those who are working at all a bit more job security as well as meant to provide an appropriate protocol for circumstances where a workers’ right are violated. If you are at an will worker and your rights are violated, you should talk with Irvine business attorneys about your legal rights. If you are an employer, you should consult with Brown & Charbonneau, LLP to find out about how we can help you to comply with California labor laws and anti-discrimination rules.

To find out more about what it means for a worker to be at will, the legal implications behind this, and the steps that can be taken to protect yourself, give us a call at (866)237-8129 or contact us online today.