California Wrongful Termination Laws

Pursuant to California Labor Code Section 2922, an employment relationship between an employer and an employee of an unspecified time period may be terminated at the will of either the employee or the employer.  This employment law rule governing the discharge of employees creates a presumption of at-will employment. However, the California at-will employment presumption can be overcome by employees if the employee can show evidence that the employer terminated the employee as a result of discrimination.

Furthermore, even where an employer does not actually terminate an employee, an employee can still bring an action for wrongful termination under California labor laws using the theory of constructive discharge. In order for an employee in California to successfully bring a claim for constructive discharge, the employee must be able to show that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee’s resignation that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign. If the employee can prove that the working conditions were truly intolerable, the employee may be able to recover damages under the constructive discharge theory for a violation of state labor laws.

Pursuant to California wrongful termination laws, constructive discharge occurs when the employer's conduct effectively forces an employee to resign. Although the employee may ultimately say, "I quit," the employment relationship is actually terminated involuntarily because the employer has intentionally created an intolerable working environment for the employee, against the employee's will and against California labor laws. As a result, under California labor laws, a constructive discharge is legally regarded as a firing rather than a resignation.

Even though employees can sue employers for wrongful termination under California labor laws based on a constructive discharge theory, an employee cannot simply quit and sue the employer. The conditions giving rise to the employee’s resignation must be sufficiently extraordinary and egregious, known as intolerable in the legal work, to overcome the normal motivation of a competent, diligent, and reasonable employee to remain on the job to earn a livelihood and to serve his or her employer. Under California state employment laws, an essential component of a constructive discharge lawsuit against an employer is that the hostile working conditions must be so intolerable that any reasonable employee would resign rather than continue to work for the employer.