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Why should I pay attention to my employee handbook?

The fact that California allows employees to be fired at-will grants employers wide latitude to terminate their workers, provided that no civil rights laws have been violated. However, if workplaces set strict guidelines for how their employees may be hired and fired in their employee handbooks, they may have ended up setting aside the state's at-will doctrine.

An employee handbook is an official document prepared by your workplace. According to entrepreneur.com, a handbook describes how employees are to conduct themselves. A handbook also lays out disciplinary actions if employees break the rules. These handbooks assist employers by establishing a legitimate case that an employee was terminated by breaking the rules described in the handbook. However, spelling out conditions for termination can also help establish a case of wrongful termination.

Basically, by making conditions for firing specific, an employee can contest being fired if the termination was not justified by the rules of the handbook. The at-will doctrine permits an employer to fire a worker for any reason, but if the employer sets down specific reasons in a handbook or another official workplace document, an employee can claim the employer set aside firing employees at-will in favor of the company's own specific hiring and firing policy.

Additionally, an employee may have a case for wrongful termination if the workplace’s disciplinary policy is inconsistently applied. If a workplace made exceptions to their policy in the past, you should know why exceptions were made, why workers in a similar situation as yourself were not terminated. Otherwise, such treatment may open a workplace to claims of unfair treatment based on gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

Be aware that while this article is written to inform readers on the subject of wrongful termination, it does not offer any legal advice.

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