Can an “at-will” employee claim wrongful termination?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2023 | Employment Law

If you are an at-will employee, you probably understand that either party can vacate the employment contract at any time and for whatever reason, as long as such reason is lawful. Thus, if you are fired from your job, you might want to find out if the termination was illegal or not. 

Basically, termination is deemed wrongful when it violates the law. If this happens, you may file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer so you can recover applicable economic and non-economic damages.  

Building a wrongful termination case

At-will employment doctrine gives employers significant leeway when it comes to terminating employment contracts. However, you may still build a wrongful termination claim under the following circumstances:

  • If there was a contractual promise – The existence of a contract can redefine the at-will employment arrangement. This is because most employment contracts come with a termination clause that clearly stipulates how and when an employee can be dismissed. If you can prove that your dismissal violated your employment contract, then you may have a wrongful termination case against your employer. 
  • If it was discriminatory – An employer cannot fire you because of a protected characteristic like your religion, race, sex or age. If this happens, you may file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • If you took a family leave – your employer cannot fire you for utilizing or planning to utilize your Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protections. For instance, your employer may not fire you for taking sick or maternity leave. 

California, like most states, is an at-will employment state. However, if you believe that your termination is unlawful, then you deserve justice. Knowing your legal options in such situations can be crucial for protecting your rights when filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.


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