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Patrick, Esq.
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California At-will Employee Termination Question Whats

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California At-will Employee Termination Question

What's the correct procedure to follow when terminating an at-will office employee on a salary? The employment agreement provides:

TERM/TERMINATION. ____________[employee] ’s employment under this Agreement shall be for an unspecified term on an “at will” basis. This Agreement may be terminated by ________[employer] upon no written notice, and by _________[employee] upon 90 days written notice. If __________[employee] is in violation of this Agreement, ________[employer] may terminate employment termination. The compensation paid under this Agreement shall be _______[employee] ’s exclusive remedy.

What about severance pay? What does the law require?
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

Since the employment is "at will" it can be terminated simply upon providing notice--something to the effect of "your termination of employment is effective immediately" is all that's required, no need to get more fancy or complicated than that.

In the state of California, Labor Code 201 requires that an employee who is terminated receive his or her final wages IMMEDIATELY upon termination. So, you will want to have their final paycheck ready for them.

A salaried employee's final pay is going to be a pro rata share of their normal pay for the pay period. For example, if a normal pay period consists of 10 business days and they are terminated on the 5th business day, they would be entitled to half their normal salary for that pay period. Again, that would be due immediately.

Under the federal WARN Act, an employer with at least 100 employees that lays off at least 50 during a 30-day period must either give 60 days notice of the lay off or pay 60 days wages. Otherwise, there is no law either state or federal that requires employers to pay severance at all. Thus, in a circumstance such as you describe, there is no need to pay severance if you don't want to.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Very best wishes to you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I told him yesterday that today is his last day and I'd pay him up to Friday 3/8. Today he showed up to the office before me and left the keys and company cards at my desk. Then he left and shot me an email from home saying he was sad and going to the welfare office right away.


Is a Severance Agreement necessary? How should I handle his pay? The direct deposit is set up. Do i need to meet him with his final pay check? or just let the direct deposit go through?


Thank you for your reply.

As noted above, severance is never mandatory except in circumstances involving sudden mass layoffs at large companies, so there is no need to provide a severance payment beyond payment for the wages actually earned.

An employer in your circumstance needs to make final payment of wages immediately, not by Friday. Otherwise, you are subjecting yourself to a potential penalty assessment in the amount of the employee's daily rate of pay for each day after the date of termination that the final wages go unpaid. (Labor Code 203)

Payment of final wages can be made by direct deposit, by mail, or the check can be "made available to the employee at a location specified by the employer" (i.e. the office for pick up). (Labor Code 201.5)

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. If I have answered your question, I would be very grateful for a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you.

Kindest regards.
Patrick, Esq. and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

Here is the relevant law for your reference:

Again, please let me know if I can provide any further assistance. If not, i would be very grateful if you would remember to provide a positive rating of my service. This is the only way I receive credit for the answers I provide and so is very important to me.

Thanks so much.
Patrick, Esq. and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you