Protecting your rights in the workplace.

Differences Between At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination

While at-will employment and wrongful termination may seem similar, there are crucial distinctions between the two and how they impact the workplace.

Key Differences

The primary distinction between at-will employment and wrongful termination lies in the circumstances surrounding the employee’s dismissal. While at-will employment allows for termination without cause, wrongful termination occurs when the termination violates the employee’s legal rights or protections. In essence, at-will employment defines the default nature of the employment relationship, while wrongful termination identifies instances where that relationship is unlawfully severed.

What Is At-Will Employment?

California is an at-will employment state, which means that an employer can fire an employee at-will, and an employee can resign from their position at-will, without facing legal repercussions.

In other words, either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason or no reason at all, with or without cause or advance notice.

At-will employment provides flexibility for both parties, but it also has limitations. Employers cannot terminate employees for reasons that violate federal or state laws, public policy, or contractual agreements.

Key Characteristics of At-Will Employment

  • Flexibility for Employers: Employers have the discretion to make personnel decisions, including hiring, firing, promotions, and demotions, without being bound by strict contractual obligations.
  • Limited Job Security: Employees in at-will arrangements have limited job security, as their employment can be terminated at any time and for any reason not prohibited by law.
  • No Contractual Obligation: In the absence of an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that specifies otherwise, the default presumption is that the employment relationship is at-will.

What is Wrongful Termination?

While at-will employment allows for termination without cause, certain exceptions exist where termination is considered unlawful or wrongful. Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired or dismissed from their job in violation of their legal rights or protections.

Key Characteristics of Wrongful Termination

  • Violation of Legal Rights: Wrongful termination occurs when an employee’s dismissal breaches their legal rights, such as protections against discrimination, retaliation, or whistleblower retaliation.
  • Legal Remedies Available: Employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated may pursue legal recourse through avenues such as filing discrimination or retaliation claims with government agencies, initiating civil lawsuits, or seeking arbitration or mediation.
  • Examples of Wrongful Termination: Common examples of wrongful termination include firing an employee based on their protected characteristics (e.g., race, gender, religion), retaliating against an employee for exercising their legal rights (e.g., reporting harassment, requesting accommodations), or breaching contractual obligations related to termination.

Speak to a Wrongful Termination Lawyer in Los Angeles Today

A Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer will meticulously examine the details surrounding your termination, including the circumstances leading up to it and the reasons provided by your employer. Through an extensive review of relevant documentation, such as employment contracts, performance evaluations, and communication records, they can scrutinize whether your termination violated any state or federal laws, breached contractual agreements, or contravened public policy. Additionally, they will evaluate if your termination occurred in retaliation for engaging in protected activities or based on discriminatory motives. If so, they can determine the strength of your case and advise you on the most effective legal strategies to pursue justice and seek appropriate remedies.

Contact us today for a confidential, no-cost consultation.