“At will” employment in the State of California means that an employment relationship may be ended by the employee or the employer at any time, with or without prior notice. Pursuant to California’s Labor Code, there is a presumption in California that employees are employed “at will”. However, there are exceptions to this presumption. Examples of exceptions to “at will” employment include employees represented by unions with collective bargaining agreements and employees with written employment contracts for a stated length of time or with a “good cause” requirement for termination.
Despite the presumption of “at will” employment in California, an employer may not terminate an employee for an illegal reason, such as due to an employee’s protected class (disability, age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, etc.), or in retaliation against an employee for engaging in a protected action (reporting harassment, complaining about illegal or unsafe practices, etc.).