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Patrick, Esq.
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Category: California Employment Law
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My 19 year son was terminated today because of a fight that

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My 19 year son was terminated today because of a fight that happened in his workplace. He is a busboy/server for a small resturant and a 38 year old cook agressively put my son in a position to defend himself which was broken up by other co workers. The oweners terminated my son only and did not fire the cook. I know in the state of california it is a right to work state and you can be terminated for any reason, but the owner specifically said his terminating was a result of violence in the workplace. Is there anything he can do?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.


You are correct that California is an "at-will" employment state, meaning that unless a worker has a contract guaranteeing them employment for a specified period of time, or unless they are a government employee, they typically may be terminated at the will of the employer. (See California Labor Code Section 2922: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other.")


As an at will employee, you are free to leave your job at any time. In exchange, your employer is free to change the requirements, promote, terminate or demote you as it sees fit and without reason. The reasons need not be fair, provided they are not otherwise discriminatory or in violation of California law or public policy.


The fact that termination occurred as a result of violence in the workplace is typically not an exception to the above rules. Therefore, an employer is typically free to terminate one employee who gets involved in a physical altercation at work while retaining the other, even if the retained employee is the one who instigated the conflict.


Your son should apply for unemployment benefits, which he may be eligible to receive although he was terminated for cause. Typically, an employee is still eligible to receive benefits unless they commit gross misconduct (stealing, showing up drunk, etc.) Getting into a fight may not qualify as gross misconduct, and assuming that your son is otherwise eligible to receive benefits, his application for them may be granted.


I understand that you may be disappointed by the answer I've given you, as it's not particularly favorable to your situation. Had I been able to provide a more favorable answer, it would have been my pleasure to do so.


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The only facts I know about your situation are the ones that you tell me, so please try to be specific and bear in mind that, occasionally, miscommunications will occur. I will do everything I can to clarify my answer if I have misunderstood your question. Also bear in mind that the law does not always read how we think it should. I ask that you be understanding if an opinion I have provided is not consistent with what you wanted to hear.


Finally, the information that I have provided is not legal advice. I am not acting as your attorney and my answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. I encourage you to consult with a local attorney in regard to legal matters.



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