“At-will employment” means an employer can terminate a worker at any time and for any reason. All 50 states recognize at-will employment, and this can be scary for employees who fear that their employers hold total power over them. While the definition states an employer can fire you for any reason, there are illegal grounds for termination, known as wrongful termination. If you’re ready to learn more and take back your power as an employee, check out these facts about at-will employment and wrongful termination.
As mentioned, the definition of at-will employment states your employer can fire you for any reason, and many people believe the definition ends there. However, this isn’t the case. The definition of at-will employment also stipulates that the termination has to be on fair and legal grounds and cannot violate the terms of your employment. If you believe your employer terminated you on illegal grounds, then it would fall under wrongful termination.
Your employer cannot fire you for whatever reason they want, and they cannot dangle your employment and income like bait to manipulate you. Not only would it be disadvantageous for them to do so from a business standpoint, but it’s also illegal. While they may not be forthright about their reason for firing you, it’s generally easy to tell when an employer is firing you for the wrong reasons—trust your instincts.
We know that wrongful termination is the act of an employer firing an employee for illegal reasons, but what are those illegal reasons?
An employer cannot terminate you in retaliation for engaging in a protected act on the grounds of a protected characteristic or in a way that breaches your employment contract. Protected acts include reporting harassment, whistleblowing, and requesting accommodations or time off. Protected characteristics are traits protected under federal employment law, such as race, ethnicity, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, or disability. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Say an employer fires you after reporting them for sexual harassment. This is termination on the grounds of retaliation and constitutes wrongful termination. As another example, let’s say your employer fires you after finding out you practice Judaism. That constitutes termination on the grounds of discrimination, which is also illegal.
Keep in mind that an employer can’t fire you in a way that violates your contract. If your employer fired you after a verbal warning, but your contract states you get a verbal and written warning before termination, this is also wrongful termination.
Your employer may not have to give you an explicit reason for firing you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sue them for suspected wrongful termination. In order to prove wrongful termination, you need to prove intent and a connection between job-related activities and the termination of your employment. You have to be diligent about recording and documenting conversations, gathering witnesses, and garnering evidence, which can be a difficult thing to do alone.
Now that you know the facts of at-will employment and wrongful termination, let the unlawful termination lawyers at Tamara N Holder help you win your case. With years of experience handling delicate employment cases, we’ll treat your case with the respect, dedication, and confidentiality it deserves.