Understanding employment law in California can be a bit confusing, given that California has its own very extensive employment laws in addition to the one set out by the federal government. However, it is vital that you understand how the law works in order to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of by your employer. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, at-will employment in California means that the employer can terminate the employee at any time without either prior notice or cause.
Most states across the country have at-will employment laws. This exist because it is assumed that having an employer go to court every single time it wants to release an employee would be unfairly burdensome on the company. However, this does not mean that companies can fire employees for discriminatory reasons. There are also some exceptions to the at-will employment laws in the state.
For example, employees who have representation through a union often possess a contract clause requiring a good cause for termination. Certain employees may also have “just cause” clauses written into their employment contracts: typically, these people are executives. Individuals who work in the public sector also tend to be protected by separate civil service laws.
However, at-will employees of any sort cannot be fired for being a member of a certain protected groups of individuals. Protected groups include sexual orientation, sex, religion, disability, race, and age. You also cannot be fired for expressing political views, taking sick days, or whistleblowing. So even if you are an at-will employee, there are protections in place to ensure that you do not get fired for discriminatory reasons.