What Is Employment At-Will? What Are My Rights?

What You Must Know If You’re an At-Will Employee

Most individuals applying for jobs are not immediately thinking about how they could be fired or let go in the future, but it’s actually quite beneficial to know employer privileges and employee rights before entering into any kind of work arrangement. While it’s not widely known, most employees are classified as “at-will” employees, meaning their employers can fire them at any time and for any reason.

In fact, the law assumes that all employees—except those with contractual agreements which say otherwise—are by nature at-will employees and therefore subject to the aforementioned termination standards. Every state but Montana takes this view, so one can say with confidence that a large segment of the American workforce is at-will employees. Here’s more on the characteristics of at-will employment and what legal rights these workers are guaranteed by federal law.

Defining At-Will Employment

Since at-will employment is largely viewed as standard in the United States, employees must have documents or oral guarantees from their employers in order to assert that they’re not at-will employees. Most companies go out of their way to make it clear in hiring materials, handbooks, applications, etc. that their employees are at-will, for a failure to do so could lead to unlawful termination claims later on.

If you’ve signed an agreement that says you’re an at-will employee, and you’re terminated without cause, unfortunately this is likely the end of the story. While “at-will” isn’t the only terminology used to describe this employee classification, the name of this employer privilege isn’t what’s important. Furthermore, companies must be very clear if they wish to have employee classifications that are not based on the at-will model, and knowing what your company’s classifications are is important—especially if you’re looking to file an unlawful termination claim against them.

As a general rule, it’s best to have a contract which specifically states your employment terms as being outside the at-will classification, for you may be able to use this document to bring a breach of contract suit against an employer. At-will employee disputes can be lengthy and hard-fought, which makes hiring an attorney—one who’s well-versed in at-will employment violations—all but required.

What Protections Are Afforded to At-Will Employees?

At-will employees are still protected by numerous state and federal laws. For example, at-will employees can’t be terminated because of discrimination; in other words, their race, religion, national origin, disability or gender can’t play a role in their firing. At-will employees also can’t be terminated if the firing violates whistleblower protections. If they want to take leave because of familial obligations or medical emergencies, they are entitled to do so. And if they have to serve on a jury, they cannot be let go because of the duty. Skilled employment attorneys like the team at Sandberg Law Firm know which laws and regulations apply to at-will employees, and this is why we’re the professionals to contact if you’re looking to pursue an unlawful termination case.

Sandberg Law Firm Helps At-Will Employees

If you believe your employer violated your rights by terminating you without cause, contact our trusted team. The initial consultation is free. Call (507) 282-3521 or contact us online.