When Can You Legally Terminate an Employee?

  • Posted on: Apr 26 2023
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Sometimes employees just aren’t a great fit for your business. When this occurs, you may want to terminate their employment. However, they may claim that you need to provide them with a reason for their termination or that you must provide them with an advance warning. Is either of these things true? When can you legally terminate an employee? Here’s what to know. 

At-Will Employment 

While California employment laws are quite comprehensive when compared with other states, the state still follows at-will employment. At-will employment means that either the employer or the employee can decide to end the employment with the company without reason, or “at will.” The employer does not need to provide a cause for this and the employee does not need to provide a reason to quit. Additionally, neither are required to provide advance notice unless otherwise agreed upon in writing.  However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t still violate this rule. 

There are two ways in which you can find yourself in violation of the at-will rule. 

1. Operations have been agreed upon in writing.

The first way in which you can violate the at-will rule is by having a binding contract in which you have agreed upon the order of operations for employee termination. If this is the case, both parties must follow the contract. If the contract states that the employee may only be fired for cause or that the employer or employee must provide two weeks of advance notice, this stands. 

2. The termination is based upon a prohibited reason.

The second way in which you can violate the at-will rule is by terminating an employee for a prohibited reason. Under federal law, an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, and national origin. Under state law, protected classes include disability, sexual orientation, and gender (pregnancy, childbirth, etc.). Should you terminate an employee on the basis of their protected class, it’s known as wrongful termination and is illegal. By providing your employee with a reason for their termination, it can help to demonstrate that the reason was not illegal.  Should you find yourself in a dispute with your former employee or should they bring a legal claim against you, it’s important to know how to protect yourself. 

The Law Offices of Brian L. Fox, APLC Help those in CA with Employee Issues

If you or your loved one live in California and need assistance with issues concerning employees and your rights, it’s in your best interest to consult with a qualified California business attorney who can help. 

At the Law Offices of Brian L. Fox, APLC we know how important it is to protect your business and your interests. We will work to protect you and your rights as an employer. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Business Law