Discipline and termination

State procedures

Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

No, unless employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. 

At-will or notice

At-will status and/or notice period?

California is an at-will state, meaning that an employee may be terminated with or without cause at any time and for any lawful reason, with or without advance notice.  

What restrictions apply to the above?

An employee’s at-will status may be modified by a collective bargaining agreement, or an express or implied contract between the employer and employee.

Employers are well advised to include specific at-will disclaimers in their company handbooks and any signed offer letters and to further provide that at-will status may be changed only through an express, signed, written agreement (to limit implied contract claims).

Of course, an employee cannot be terminated for an unlawful reason, such as membership in a protected class or in retaliation for engaging in protected activity (eg, complaining about discrimination, complaining about wage issues or whistleblowing).

Final paychecks

Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?

Yes. In the case of a termination, the employee must be paid all wages (including accrued but unused vacation) due at the time of discharge (California Labor Code, §201). An employee who resigns must be paid within 72 hours of his or her resignation (California Labor Code, §202). 

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