With some notable exceptions, California is an at-will employment state. What this means is that your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason. Obviously, there are some very common reasons for termination of employment, including the top ten reasons listed below.
1. Poor Work Performance
Poor work performance is the most commonly cited reason for an employee’s termination, and is a catch-all term that refers to a number of issues, including failure to do the job properly or adequately even after undergoing the standard training period for new employees, failing to meet quotas, requiring constant supervision, or requiring that the work be redone.
Certain types of misconduct not only will result in being fired from your job, but can also put you at risk of facing legal consequences, as well. Behaviors that qualify as employee misconduct include physical or sexual harassment of co-workers or customers, bullying, fraud, and neglect. More than 20 percent of employees know or have worked with someone who has been fired for wasting time or disrupting other employees at the office.
3. Chronic Lateness/ Absence
If you are regularly half an hour late for work or you take a lot of time off, it places a burden on your employer and co-workers, as they are tasked with picking up the slack caused by your absence in order to prevent a loss of productivity. Around 22 percent of U.S. employers have fired an employee for providing a fake excuse when calling in sick, and 41 percent have fired an employee for showing up late.
4. Company Policy Violations
Companies do not simply create policies for their own benefit. Many times, the company’s policies are required through governmental and industry regulations and violations of those policies will leave your employer with little choice but to take verbal or written disciplinary action or to terminate your employment. Other company policies, such as the dress code, the company’s view on romantic relationships between co-workers, and the company’s view on social media use are important guidelines for you to read carefully upon accepting the job to ensure that you are able to uphold those policies.
5. Drug or Alcohol Use at Work
In spite of the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in California, the drug still remains illegal at the federal level and many employers participate in the Federal Drug Free Workplace Act, which provides a number of benefits for the employer and results in mandated drug testing when an employee is hired, randomly throughout employment, and if the employee suffers an on-the-job injury. Approximately 70 percent of the 14.8 million individuals who abuse drugs are employed. The use of drugs and alcohol during work results in lost productivity, an increased risk of injury, and will generally cost you your job.
6. Personal Use of Company Property
Usually, a company will allow an employee a single or limited use of a copier in order to copy a personal document. However, frequent personal use of copiers, office supplies, printers, and laptops for your personal use — or, worse, your “side gig” — will likely be viewed as theft and can result in the loss of your employment.
7. Theft or Property Damage
Taking anything — even pens or paper — from your company for personal use is not only a fire-able offense, but it can also result in legal troubles for you, as well. Additionally, as an employee, you are expected to treat company property with care. Being careless with your work laptop, the copy machine, and other equipment can also jeopardize your employment.
8. Falsifying Company Records
Providing false information on company records not only places your employment at risk, but could also create risk for the entire company, particularly if the records are financial in nature or pertain to industry regulations. Worse, falsifying information can — in some industries and depending on the nature of the document — place your coworkers and customers at risk of financial loss, injury, or even death.
9. Inappropriate Use of Social Media
Social media has been both extraordinarily beneficial in the workplace for its ability to connect people with the products and services they need, as well as extraordinarily harmful in terms of the legal risk that inappropriate social media use on-the-job can result in as well as the loss of productivity created by employees who are spending time scrolling when they should be working. Around one-third of U.S. employers have disciplined an employee for violating the company’s social media policy, and 17 percent have fired an employee for something they posted on social media.
While most employers look for employees who are able to think for themselves and offer ideas or insights as to how to improve the workplace, there tends to be a firm line drawn when it comes to insubordinate actions, such as repeatedly or disrespectfully arguing with the manager or other co-workers, outright refusing to obey orders from a manager, or otherwise exhibiting behaviors that obstruct the normal flow of business. There is a notable exception to insubordination, and that is when an employee refuses an order from a manager that would result in a violation of the law or of public policy. Generally, in these circumstances, federal whistleblower laws protect the employee from termination.
Were You Wrongfully Terminated?
As stated, there are exclusions from the at-will employment rule in California. Some of those exclusions include:
- Termination of an employee who is under written or employed contract and has met the provisions of that contract.
- Employees who belong to a union and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that lays out the standard of termination.
- Employees whose employers have said or done things that overcome the presumption of at will, such as a progressive discipline policy.
If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated or you have been falsely accused of any of the behaviors listed above, our experienced employment attorney can explain your legal options. Contact Perkins Asbill, a Professional Law Corporation, online or by calling 916-446-2000 to discuss your case.