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Can my husband sue his employer for laying him off on his 2nd day of work.

Oakland, CA |

Well he called me and said he was asked to sign a paper about beign layed off because they told him that they didnt need him anymore and it was only his 2nd day working.

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Attorney answers 3


If your husband did not have a contract (which would include something like a collective bargaining agreement with a union), then he was an at-will employee, and the employer could let him go without cause, so long as it was not for an illegal reason like discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age (40+), etc. Assuming that what you say is the reason (they didn't need him anymore), then the employer could certainly let him go.
If you think that an illegal reason is the real reason why he was let go, then you should contact an employment lawyer to review the possible reasons. 510-208-5500. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is not legal advice, because it is only of a general nature. Please contact a lawyer qualified in your jurisdiction to discuss your situation in confidence, using your factual details. Avvo answers are only general legal responses. Item 9 of's Terms and Conditions are incorporated in this disclaimer as though it were printed here.


First, I agree with attorney Andrew Jacobson. In addition, to specifically answer your question, yes your husband can sue his employer; but this doesn't address the probabilities of success. You have given very few facts and you've provided no facts that would substantiate a successful claim on behalf of your husband. Even with a Union job, or Government employment, there are almost always a probation time period which an employer has to provide no reason for termination. Mr. Jacobson is correct in his analysis in that you would have to prove-up discriminatory practice, and since it was only his 2nd day of employment, your chances of success are statistically most improbable.

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This is a rotten situation and I'm sorry your family is going through this. I agree that an employer can terminate an employee for almost any reason it wants. Unfortunately, employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

One thing that comes to mind is to invoke promissory estoppel. This doctrine allows a court to enforce a promise in the interest of justice if all of the following elements are present:

-- one party makes a gratuitous promise to another (that is, a promise it was not required to make, such as a job offer); AND
-- a second party changes its position, circumstances or actions in reliance on that promise (moves, quits another job, etc.); AND
-- that reliance was reasonable; AND
-- the second party was harmed due to its changed position, circumstances or actions.

In a promissory estoppel situation, a court could determine the (potential) employer was at fault for causing you to change your life in the expectation of a job.

Terms in an offer letter may make a difference. For example, the letter may contain "waffle words," such as "The employer can withdraw this offer at any time" or "This offer does not guarantee employment," or "This offer is contingent on passing a qualifying exam" or other similar language.

The interactions between the parties are also significant. It is helpful if there are written communications, such as e-mail messages, that show the employer knew you were relying on the promise. For example, if you told the employer that you were resigning your other job, relocating, or making other changes in your life because of your pending employment with the employer, these communications would support a claim for promissory estoppel.

The devil is in the details, so you must present your facts to an attorney in your state who can give you the dedicated attention your situation deserves.

A related claim of detrimental reliance can be used in situations where promissory estoppel may not be available.

Employment law is complicated and fact-specific. You may wish to consult with an experienced plaintiffs employment lawyer. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state. *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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