Employees of all industries in California must understand their rights regarding termination. Most employment in California functions on an “at-will” basis, meaning both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate the working relationship at will. Neither party is required to give prior notice or cite a specific reason for ending a working relationship. Some view this law as providing the highest level of flexibility to both employers and employees. In contrast, others see it as carte blanche for companies to fire employees whenever they wish for any reason at all.
The California legislature has approved a few new laws that will influence California workplaces in several ways in 2022. While most of these new laws do not pertain directly to employee termination, some of the following new laws may influence termination cases in numerous ways. Therefore, it’s vital for everyone working in California in every industry to understand these changes so they are fully aware of their rights in their workplaces.
This new bill modifies the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), amending the definition of “parent” to now include “parents-in-law.” This will expand access to CFRA rights to more situations. Additionally, AB 1033 creates a pilot mediation program applicable to small employers who have between five and 19 employees. This makes mediation a legal requirement before any civil lawsuit can be filed under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) when the employee or the employer requests mediation.
This new bill implements new restrictions on nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses in employee termination contracts. Previously, employee termination settlements could not prevent the employee from disclosing any factual information about sexual harassment incidents in their workplace. SB 311 expands this to include all forms of harassment and discrimination. Additionally, all covered severance agreements that include nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements must clearly state:
“Nothing in this agreement prevents you from discussing or disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.”
Employees must be given at least five days to consider such agreements before signing. They may do so within five days as long as they are not subjected to any fraud, coercion, or misrepresentation of the elements of such agreements. Many employees who experience harassment or discrimination from their employers will ultimately leave their jobs after securing settlements for their experiences. SB 311 ensures employees retain the right to speak about their experiences to others without facing lawsuits for breach of contract.
AB 1003 now classifies intentional wage theft, including gratuities, like grand theft when the wage theft amounts to $950 or more for a single employee or $2,350 or more for two or more employees working in concert if the wage theft occurs within a consecutive 12-month period. As a result, wage and hour disputes are among the most commonly filed employment claims in California. While employers must abide by all California regulations pertaining to wage and hour requirements, employees must record their time at work accurately.
California upholds an at-will employment statute, meaning both employers and employees have the right to end a working relationship at any time, with or without notice. There is also no requirement to cite a reason for ending the work agreement. However, there are exceptions to the at-will employment law. For example, some employees do not work at will and have contracts with their employers. These contracts will typically stipulate the acceptable grounds either party may cite to end a working relationship. Employers who violate employment contracts face wrongful termination claims.
At-will employment also does not allow companies to fire employees for reasons that are illegal. Specifically, an employer may not fire an employee due to the employee’s race, religion, age, sex, or any other protected personal quality. Unfortunately, it is not always easy for an employee to prove their termination was wrongful. If you believe you recently lost your job due to discrimination of any kind, or if your employer violates any new employment laws for California in 2022, it’s vital to speak with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible.
Q: What Are the New Termination Laws for California in 2022?
A: The various new employment laws passed for 2022 in California may influence some termination cases and adjust the ways employers must handle termination for some employees. While there are few direct changes to the termination laws of California for 2022, it remains crucial for employees to know their rights and how to address wrongful termination.
Q: What Is California’s Minimum Wage in 2022?
A: California enforces a higher minimum wage requirement than the federal minimum wage. As of January 1, 2022, the California minimum wage has increased to $15 per hour, with some exceptions. In addition, employees who qualify as “learners” in new positions for which they have no prior work experience may receive 85% of the state minimum wage for the first 160 hours of work they perform. There are also new minimum wage requirements that apply to specific types of employment.
Q: What Are Grounds for Termination in California?
A: California enforces an at-will employment statute, meaning that an employer does not need to cite any specific reason for terminating an employee. However, employers may not violate the terms of legally enforceable employment contracts or fire employees for reasons that are illegal. The at-will employment law does not pose any restrictions regarding prior notice or citing specific reasons for termination for employees.
State laws change regularly, and both employees and employers need to stay updated on the most recent legislative changes pertaining to their employment. Azadian Law Group, PC, has successfully represented many California employees in employment law disputes, and we can assist you if your employer violates any state laws regarding your employment in 2022. If you believe you have a case, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team.