At Will: Can You Be Fired at Any Time or for Any Reason?

In most cases, “at will” employment means that your job can end for no reason or for any reason. An employer violates the at will principle when it fires an employee for exercising a right guaranteed by law, executing a duty required by law, or when an employee refuses to violate the law.

Other instances where an employer may not fire you at will can be when a contract specifies “for cause” or provides a list of circumstances that would require discharge. The language of an employer’s handbook, manuals or policies may also be treated as a contract between you and your employer if it specifies certain reason an employee can be fired. If you are in a union, the collective bargaining agreement that your union has with your employer may lay out the circumstances under which you can be fired.

Illegal reasons for an employer firing you can include harassment or discrimination based on your religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status. It is also illegal for an employer to fire you in retaliation for blowing the whistle on illegal or improper conduct, taking family medical leave, for your union activity, or filing a discrimination claim with a state or federal agency.

If you have any questions on how these changes affect you, contact our resident employment and labor law expert, Erika Thorn, at White Law PLLC!