Tortious Interference With at Will Employment In California
It is well established that the at-will nature of a contract does not preclude a tortious interference claim.
In Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co. (1990) 50 Cal. 3d 1118 270 Cal. Rptr. 1, 791 P.2d 587, our Supreme Court stated, "We have affirmed that interference with an at-will contract is actionable interference with the contractual relationship, on the theory that a contract ' "at the will of the parties . . . does not make it one at the will of others." (Id. at p. 1127; PMC, Inc. v. Saban Entertainment, Inc. (1996) 45 Cal. App. 4th 579, 599, fn. 15 52 Cal. Rptr. 2d 877 "In California, an at-will contract is an enforceable contract and thus it may be actionable to interfere with that contract".)
Cases have applied tortious interference claims in the specific context of at-will employment relationships. See, e.g., Kozlowsky v. Westminster Nat. Bank (1970) 6 Cal. App. 3d 593, 598 86 Cal. Rptr. 52 "the fact that the Bank was privileged to discharge plaintiff at any time does not necessarily privilege a third party unjustifiably to induce the termination";
Savage v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1993) 21 Cal. App. 4th 434, 448 26 Cal. Rptr. 2d 305 the tort of interference with contractual relations may be based on at-will employment contract;
Truax v. Raich (1915) 239 U.S. 33, 38 36 S. Ct. 7, 9, 60 L. Ed. 131 unjustified interference of third persons in the employment relationship "is actionable although the employment is at will".
A leading commentator explains the principle underlying such claims as follows:
"Interference with employment . . . contracts terminable at will is actionable, since until it is terminated the contract is a subsisting relation, of value to the plaintiff, and presumably to continue in effect." (Prosser & Keeton, Torts (5th ed. 1984) 129, pp. 995-996.)