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Like most other states, California observes "at-will" employment laws. This means either you or your employer can terminate your relationship at any time, but your employer isn't allowed to terminate you for certain reasons.
Exceptions to the "At-Will" Employment Rule
Public Policy Exception
The National Conference of State Legislature notes that the most common exception to the at-will rule is the public policy doctrine. Under this doctrine, employers can't fire an employee for:
- Refusing to commit an illegal act
- Exercising a statutory right
- Reporting a legal violation
- Performing acts that are in the public interest
An employer can't fire an employee for whistle-blowing, for filing a worker's compensation claim, for taking family medical leave or taking time off to vote. It's also illegal for your employer to fire you based on discrimination against your religion, race, color, origin, disability, medical condition or sexual orientation.
Actual or Implied Contract Exception
If you have a contract with your employer that states you can't be fired without cause, and if you are fired without cause, your employer may be violating the terms of the contract. The state of California also recognizes implied contracts. For example, if your employer verbally expressed to you that you were guaranteed a job for a certain length of time, he may not be able to fire you.
California Employee Rights and Recourse
If you believe you were fired or let go in violation of your rights, you can sue your employer for wrongful termination or breach of contract. The court may require that your employer reinstate you, reimburse you for legal fees or pay you for damages.
If you'd rather not sue your employer, consider filing an unemployment claim. Provided that your employer can't prove you were fired for good reason, you may be eligible to receive weekly unemployment benefits from the state of California until you find a new job.
The "at-will" doctrine allows either an employee or an employer to terminate the employment at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not a legally protected one. The state of Texas practices the at-will doctrine.
Although Texas practices this doctrine, if you are an employee who is under a contract, your employer may not be able to terminate your employment for reasons that are not outlined in your employment contract. Texas law does not automatically exempt contract employees from the at-will doctrine. Your employment contract in writing, according to Lawyers.com, "must directly limit, in a meaningful and special way, the employer's right to terminate the employee without cause."
Although Texas employers are not required to provide you with an employee handbook, employers may be found liable for information contained in their employee handbooks, if one is provided. The law states that if an employer chooses to provide an employee handbook, the handbook must outline information that includes but is not limited to the at-will employment relationship, the Family and Medical Leave Act, sexual harassment and other crimes in the workplace, and an equal employment opportunity statement.
Workplace Safety and Workplace Injury
Texas law requires employers to provide safe working environments for their employees. According to Lawyers.com, a safe working environment is one "that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees."
If you are a Texas employee and believe that your workplace is unsafe, you may anonymously report your employer to the Workers' Health and Safety Division of the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report an unsafe working environment.
If you are injured at the workplace, you may qualify for workers' compensation benefits. If an employee is fatally injured, the law states that his or her dependents may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.
If you qualify for workers' compensation benefits, you may be eligible for up to 70 percent of your average weekly wage. In addition, you may be eligible for temporary income benefits. The benefit amount depends on your average weekly income before and after your workplace injury.
Texas employers may be liable for sexual harassment claims that occur in the workplace. Sexual harassment may include but is not limited to any verbal or physical conduct, or sexual advances, that occur in a working environment.
An employer may be liable for sexual harassment if it requires an employee to perform any favor that is sexual in nature in exchange for a workplace benefit and/or advancement. The law also states that a hostile work environment, one that is excessively sexual in nature, may constitute sexual harassment.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Under federal law, Texas employers must provide their employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. If you are a Texas employee, the law also states that your employer must provide you with any medical benefits you were entitled to prior to taking your leave. Your employer must reinstate your position when you return from the leave.
This FMLA provision is applicable to you only if you have worked for 12 consecutive months with the same employer. In addition, you must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. Furthermore, your employer must be a state, federal or local agency, or a private employer with 50 or more employees who work 20 weeks in any given calendar year.
Texas law prohibits employers from retaliating against you for taking a leave under FMLA.
Texas employers may not discriminate, or terminate your employment, on the basis of national origin, gender, pregnancy, religion, race, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation. The law forbids employers from considering these factors during promotions, wages, termination and job assignments.