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How an implied contract work in California

Like all but one of the other states, California is what is called an employment “at will” state. This means that absent an employment agreement to the contrary, an employer in San Diego or in other parts of the state can end his or her employee’s job for any reason, so long as the reason is otherwise legal under federal and state law.

However, many state courts, including the courts in California, are relatively quick to imply that there was in fact an employment agreement in place even if an employer did not expressly intend as much or put anything in writing. If part of this implied contract was some sort of a promise that if an employee did certain things, he or she could count on keeping his or her job, then the court will enforce that promise.

As a word of caution to San Diego employees, though, simply being a long-term employee does not make one safe from getting let go for almost any reason under California’s “at will” doctrine. This is so even if the employee had in the past been acknowledged for a job well done via good performance reviews and raises. Rather, an employee will be expected to demonstrate via evidence that there was some understanding between him or her and the employer that one’s job was safe.

Many times, employers in California are careful to repeatedly and formally remind employees that they intend for the relationship to be “at will,’ but such is not always the case. An employee who feels he or she was fired despite an employer’s binding and valid promise, he or she can consider whether or not to bring a wrongful termination suit.


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