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Can my employer make me take a day off without pay? Can they fire me for reasons unrealted to my job performance?

Santa Clara, CA |

I work for a relative, and they considered firing me due to family issues. They made me take a day off without pay yesterday.

Can I be fired (as opposed to laid off) for family issues?

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Attorney answers 5


They can fire you for any reason but in terms of being for cause to deny benefits that will have to pay benefits, that is not permissible.

This is just my opinion and not a comprehensive answer. You assume the risk because this answer may not apply to your situation depending on the facts.


Unless you signed a contract stating that you can only be terminated "for cause," you can be terminated for any reason or for no reason at all, as long as they are not engaging in unlawful discrimination or retaliation (or violating another law) by doing so. Familial relationship is not a protected status with respect to employment in California. However, you may want to speak with an employment attorney to determine whether there is another basis.upon which you can claim wrongful termination.

Best of luck to you.

Disclaimer: This reply does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, and constitutes only general guidance based on the limited information provided, and may not take into account additional relevant facts and circumstances pertaining to your specific situation.


With the limited facts you are giving me and you have not stated there is any other sort of issues regarding i.e. discrimination, race, age, gender, disability etc. If in fact there is some sort of family dispute going on that is the basis of them having you not work without pay or your termination they really do not need a reason to be terminated unless you have a contract, or an employment manual policy states differently.

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Not clear what you mean by "family issues." If it means what the others have assumed,--that you are related to the owner or something like that, then it is true that you can be fired for any reason or no reason, provided that there is no contract or company policy that states otherwise -- and provided it is not because of your membership i a "protected class" -- e.g., race, age, gender, etc. or because of your exercise of a right (whistleblower, workers comp claimant. etc.).

On the other hand, if "family issues" means you're pregnant, or if it means that you need to take care of an ill family member, or something similar, then you should definitely speak to an experienced employment lawyer immediately.

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If you are an at will employee, yes, you can be fired for family issues.

Melissa Mack, Esq.
Alameda, CA

My reply, and all content contained therein, is for informational purposes only, and does not create an attorney client relationship.

Michael John Tonsing

Michael John Tonsing


Problem is we do not know what asker means by family issues. She can be fired if she has a father-in-law who thinks she's unworthy of her son, he can fire her for this "family issue." However, if by "family issue" she means she's pregnant, then he can't, or at least she should see an experienced employment lawyer before giving up. I still believe that we don't have enough facts to say one way or another.

Melissa F. Mack

Melissa F. Mack


I agree that we do not have enough facts. Generally speaking, family is not a protected class in CA employment law, and the asker seems to suggest that there is some family in-fighting or tension in the family business, which would not give rise to a cause of action. If the asker means something else by family 'issues,' like being in the 'family way,' then you are right to point out that pregnancy is a protected class, which could give rise to a claim.

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