My employer is telling me I have to sign a contract that will change my employment status to at will. Could I face retaliation for refusing to sign?
It depends on what your status was before you are presented with this new agreement. In California everyone is an at will employee unless there is an agreement to the contrary with the employer. It would be quite unique if you are not already an at will employee. If you are not, then an attorney would have to understand the contract you have that removes you from that status to give you the advice you seek. For instance, if you have a guaranteed term contract for a defined period of time, then you have the contractual right to that contract until the end of the expressly stated term in the agreement.
If you are already considered by the law to be at will, then your employer can certainly require you to sign any new agreement with any new terms or restating older implicit terms, and if you refuse to sign it, you can be terminated.
If you wish to get specific, confidential advice, it would be wise for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law work offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.
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