Can my employer fire me for a conflict on their property even though I was off the clock?

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Can my employer fire me for a conflict on their property even though I was off the clock?

I was involved in an accident in the parking lot of my place of work. The individual who hit me was a member of my employer. He tried to leave the scene after I asked him for his information (license and insurance); he started to take off. I tried stopping him and in the whole situation, I grabbed the first thing I had and tossed it at the car to try and stop him. I shattered his windshield but no one was harmed. Now my employer is trying to terminate me even though it had nothing to do with work. I made a police report of a hit and run and have the information at hand.

Asked on December 23, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I'm afraid that your employer can terminate your employment for this behavior.  In most states employment relationships are what is known as "at will", and CA is no exception.  This means is that an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as they see fit - whether or not "off the clock".  An employee in turn can work for an employeror not, it's their choice. 

There would be an exception if there is a stated company policy contrary, or there is a union/employment agreement that does not allow for such action, or this situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination (i.e., for reasons due to your race, religion, age, disability, sex, national origin).  Absent any of the foregoing, your employer's action does not violate the law.


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