The state of California is considered an “at-will” employment state. This means that an employer can fire any employee for any reason, whenever the employer decides to do so. However, employers are prevented from terminating employment for specific reasons that are considered illegal. Wrongful termination laws exist to protect employees, though many workers may not be aware of their full rights in this area.
Most employees likely know that they cannot be fired due to discrimination. This means an employer cannot fire them because of their race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or other protected class. They also cannot be fired for insisting that an employer honor those rights. Doing so could be grounds for a retaliation claim against the employer.
Employers also cannot fire an employee over his or her alien status, so long as the employee is otherwise legally able to work. If an employee lodges a complaint related to safety violations as regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he or she cannot be terminated over it. Similarly, if an employee is fired for a reason that violates public policy -- for example, refusing to destroy documents, whistleblowing or taking earned family leave -- an employer could be subject to a wrongful termination suit. One final -- and unusual -- reason that an employee cannot be fired is for the refusal to take a lie detector test.
If any California employee feels that he or she was fired for an unfair or unfounded reason, a civil suit against that person’s former employer may be warranted. Further information may be needed before a wrongful termination suit is pursued. However, an employee is well within his or her rights to assess the viability of commencing such a claim.
Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Termination Laws: Illegal Reasons", , Aug. 30, 2014