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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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If my job suddenly disappears as in a lay off or termination

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If my job suddenly disappears as in a lay off or termination after complaining about the boss-is that illegal Also, I have been at this job over 20 years without complaint-is that a factor in any way should there be a lawsuit?
Thank you so much for your followup question.

Unless you have an employment contract which guarantees your employment for a specified term or limits your employer's ability to terminate you but for "just cause," California law presumes your employment to be "at will." More specifically, California Labor Code Section 2922 provides that: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other." What this means is that an employer is free to terminate employees for any reason whatsoever, even a reason that is entirely unfair, unless the underlying motivation is discriminatory or otherwise in violation of California law.

While any employer with common sense would value your experience and tenure with the company and terminate you only for extremely compelling reasons, the law imposes no such requirement upon them. You can have a perfect record, no complaints, and be the top person in your department, but if your employer thinks you wore the wrong color socks to work on a Tuesday, they still have the right to terminate you. That is an example of the vast discretion employers have in "at will" employment.

All of the above noted, it is expensive to re-hire and re-train new employees, and if you were to be fired, you could generally file for unemployment which would affect your employer's unemployment insurance premium. This is to say that employers generally do not want to terminate employees any more than employees want to be fired, and so employers tend to be rationale about these sorts of decisions.

I would not worry terribly about layoff or termination if you have been employed for so long without a problem. Your employer would be a fool to let you go from a business standpoint. However, I hope that my explanation of the law has given you a better understanding of the limited legal rights employees unfortunately have under the circumstances, and that sometimes it is truly better to "bite the bullet" and keep your head down rather than standing up to what you believe (rightfully so) os poor management, as doing so from a legal standpoint does make you vulnerable to termination.

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns.
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