In California, employers actually are allowed to terminate at-will or at will employees for no reason. An at-will employee is an employee who does not have a contract for employment for a specific duration, for example, a one (1) year employment contract that has an agreed upon start and end date.
This means employers may terminate at-will employees for unfair, mean, or stupid reasons. Employers may do this because employees should not have an expectation of employment for a specific period of time when the parties never agreed to it. At-will employees only have legal protection from being fired for specified illegal reasons. It is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee specifically because the employee is a member of a protected class. Examples of protected classes are age over 40, disability, military service, nationality, race, religion, and sex.
It is also illegal for an employer to fire an employee specifically because the employee exercised a protected right by engaging in a protected activity. Examples of an employee’s protected activity are complaining to an employer or a government agency about the employer’s not paying wages the employee earned or about the employer discriminating against any employees on the basis of disability, race, or sex.