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Law Offices of Peter M. Schaeffer, Attorney
Employment Law, Personal Injury, & Workers Compensation
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The Employment Lawyer Letters
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Serving
Riverside and San Bernardino Counties with offices located conveniently
serving Riverside - Moreno Valley, Hemet, Temecula -Murrieta - Sun City , and Palm
Springs - Cathedral City - Palm Desert areas


The Employment Lawyer Letters

"What is At Will Employment?" or "I thought after my probationary period was past they couldn't fire me?"

The starting point for analyzing any employment contract is Lab C 2922, which creates a rebuttable presumption that every contract of employment is terminable at the will of either party, with or without a reason, at any time. Thus, an employment contract in California will be terminable at-will unless there is an express or implied contract term providing that the employee can be terminated only on good cause. This is an either/or situation: an employment contract is either an at-will contract or a contract terminable only for cause.

The concept of a "for cause" employment contract is that the employer will continue the employment relationship for so long as the employee performs his job satisfactorily. Cause for termination will either be unsatisfactory job performance, job-related misconduct, or legitimate (nonpretextual) financial needs of the company, such as the need to reduce the workforce.

Where it appears that the employment contract provided for at-will employment (or where the client's case for a good cause contract, either express or implied, is weak), there typically will not be a basis for litigation unless the termination is in violation of public policy. It is established law that although an employer may terminate an employee pursuant to an at will contract for any reason or no reason, an employee may never be terminated for an unlawful reason.

An employer's right to terminate an "at-will" employee is subject to limits imposed by public policy. Otherwise, the threat of termination could be used to coerce employees into committing crimes, concealing wrongdoing, or taking other action harmful to the public welfare. Termination of an employee in retaliation for resisting his or her employer's violation of laws that secure important public policies contravenes those policies and gives rise to a common-law tort action. [Blom v N.G.K. Spark Plugs (U.S.A.), Inc. (1992, 2nd Dist) 3 Cal App 4th 382,

Recent case law has further eroded job longevity as a possible back door around the at-will agreement.

                                      
 


Peter M. Schaeffer
The Law Offices of Peter M. Schaeffer
167 Masters Avenue, Suite A
Riverside, CA 92507
Telephone:
(951) 275-0111