Outside of a written agreement, such as a contract, an employer in California can let an employee go without cause at any time. This is because Califormia is an at-wil employment state. However, as with anything legal, things aren’t always that simple.
Employees do have rights, and although employers can theoretically dismiss any worker anytime without cause, if employees can show that they were wrongfully dismissed – especially with regard to discrimination, retaliation or harassment – the employee might win in a lawsuit. In other cases, an employee might be protected by a contract that details the circumstances under which dismissal can legally occur.
If you have been dismissed from a job, then the first thing you should understand is whether you have a contract. If you signed a written contract at the time you were hired, the employer should have provided you with a copy of that document. You can review the contract or work with a legal representative who can review it to determine if your job loss represents a breach of contract. You might also consider whether you have an oral contract, though these are harder to prove. For example, if your employer made promises about the length of employment or stated that you could not be let go except under certain circumstances when he or she hired you, this might help you make a case for a contract breach.
Second, you should consider why you were let go. If an employer can legitimately show you were not performing your job as expected or you engaged in illegal or disallowed behavior on the job, then the employer has a right to let you go. If you were let go for attempting to form a union, reporting illegal or unsafe activities or asserting your rights in any way, then you might have been wrongfully terminated.
Source: FindLaw, “Your Rights when Losing or Leaving a Job,” accessed April 15, 2016