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Do "at-will" laws also apply to employees in California?

You have likely heard of at-will employment laws, or laws that allow employers to terminate employees at will at any time and for any reason without opening themselves to legal retaliation, even if that does not protect them from suits for discrimination or other acts of wrongful termination. But does the at-will clause also protect an employee and allow them to leave an employer at any time and for any reason?

The Society for Human Resource Management states that yes, the clause goes both ways. According to California state law, employees do not even need to provide prior notice, although it is considered good professional practice to do so nonetheless. Under California's employment at will laws, employers are expected to abide by an implied contract that any terminations will happen with just cause, operating on good faith, but employees have no such obligations. Employees are further protected by "just cause" clauses included in certain public sector employment contracts and contracts for working with labor unions.

So can an employer sue an employee for terminating their own employment at will? It is not likely, nor is it probable. Unless an employer can prove massive damages caused by the employee quitting, the case would likely have no grounding under California labor law. California offers extensive protections that provide the general workforce with a sense of safety when dealing with employers who may have more power or legal resources at their disposal.

This post was written for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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