Can Your Employer Fire You for Job Searching?

Many responsible individuals seek new employment while they are still working at another job. This strategy helps reduce the amount of time a person spends unemployed and ensures financial security. However, many employers do not act kindly when they discover that an employee is seeking opportunities elsewhere.

In some cases, the company may fire the employee if the employer discovers that he or she is actively searching for a job. Due to the contracts and employment terms of most American jobs, this act is usually legal.

Termination During a Job Hunt

As unjust as this termination may seem, many employers retain the right to fire employees for looking for another job. The majority of employees in the United States are β€œat-will employees.” This term means that you and the employer reserve the right to end your employment at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Employers can fire you for seeking another opportunity with or without notice. However, firing someone for discriminatory purposes is illegal. In addition, you should read through your contract to determine if you are truly an at-will employee. Some employee contracts and union protections may prohibit employers from firing you for seeking another job.

Discriminatory Termination Laws in California

Despite the at-will employment stipulation, California courts do consider certain firing practices discriminatory. If you believe your employer had an ulterior motive for firing you that did not pertain to your job search, you could contest the termination. You may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit in California if your former employer engaged in any of the following practices.

  • The reason for your firing violated a section of your employment contract or union protections.
  • Your employer violated any section of your contract or protections, such as denying benefits, wages, hours, or any other job right.
  • Your employer fired you based on one of your protected characteristics.
  • Your employer fired you to retaliate against you for filing a complaint, taking time off, or exercising a protected right.
  • Your employer fired you for refusing to commit an illegal act or malpractice.

Protected characteristics under California law include:

  • Race
  • Sex, including pregnancy
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Genetic information
  • Disabilities
  • Medical conditions
  • Status as a victim of sexual violence
  • Marital status
  • Political beliefs
  • AIDS/HIV diagnosis
  • Citizenship status

Tips for Speaking With Your Employer About Your Job Search

If your employer speaks to you about your job search, a few speaking tips can help you calm the waters and avoid an unnecessary termination.

  • Always be honest if your employer confronts you about searching for another opportunity. Your employer will find out that you will leave your job eventually. Let your employer know that you are searching for another opportunity.
  • Next, justify your reason for searching for another job. This will help lift the blame off of you and your employer and soften the blow. Wanting to advance your career, secure a more stable position, changing industries, moving, or receiving an interesting opportunity are slightly more employer-friendly reasons for searching for a new position.
  • Do not tell your employer that the reason you are searching for another position is because you are unhappy with your position, the company, or his or her leadership. As true as this reasoning may be, saying so could aggravate the situation.
  • Clarify your commitment to your current position. Do not allow your work quality to slip – you want to end on a high note. Poor job performance could lead to early termination. Complete all of your projects and make sure to attend work each day.

If you believe that you experienced wrongful termination due to discrimination or a breach of contract, contact an attorney as soon as possible. You could reverse the termination or seek damages to compensate for economic and non-economic losses.