Most workers are at-will employees. They do not have contracts. They can be fired at any time. They can quit at any time. Even if they consider their job to be stable, there is technically no guarantee that it will exist from one day to the next. As soon as they want to, either side can end that business relationship.
People often say that this means you can be fired for any reason. But is that true?
Some reasons for firing an “at-will” employee are still illegal
It’s almost true. It does mean that, unless you have a contract or there are company policies stating otherwise, you don’t have to be fired “for cause.” You don’t have to do anything wrong for your company to terminate you. Your boss can simply decide to fire you, and that’s not a violation of your rights.
While “at-will” employment gives employers broad latitude to fire someone, it’s important to note that this practice excludes illegal reasons. Firing a worker due to their race or national origin, for example, is still illegal. Firing them for their gender is illegal. These are just a few examples of protected classes.
These classes are still protected under at-will employment laws. All that at-will means is that the employer doesn’t need to have a reason, such as noting that the employee is underproducing. But they still cannot have an illegal reason and try to hide behind the at-will laws.
This can lead to debates where employers claim they have done nothing wrong and employees claim they’re being discriminated against. Those who are involved in these types of legal debates need to know exactly what options they have.