When Can At-Will Employees Be Fired?

When Can At-Will Employees Be Fired

People who work as at-will employees have both pros and cons to this type of employment. While at-will workers may leave at any time and for any reason, their employers may also fire them at any time and for almost any reason. There are certain circumstances in which termination is illegal, however. The employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler may help you if your termination was wrongful.

What an at will employment agreement is

In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, most employees work at will. This means that you may be fired for any reason, including no reason at all. At will employment termination may happen without any notice. However, you cannot be fired for a reason that is unlawful. If your employer fires you for an unlawful reason, you may have legal remedies available to you.

For-cause employment

For-cause employment is the opposite of at-will employment. If your job is this type, you will only be fired by your employer if good cause exists. You may have for-cause protection from explicit statements by your employer in your employee handbook or a contract. You may also have protection by being a member of a union. Civil service laws also mandate that government workers are fired for good cause.

Can an employer fire you if they made an implied promise?

If you have an implied employment contract, you may also override your at-will status. An implied contract may be formed if your employer makes statements about the permanence of your position or job. It may also be formed if a for-cause firing policy is outlined in the employee handbook.

Pretextual terminations

Some courts recognize pretextual firings as a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. This may include firing workers who are nearing the age at which they would qualify for retirement benefits in order to avoid paying the benefits. It may also include telling an employee a false reason for his or her firing when the employer simply wants to replace the worker with one who will be paid less.

Can an employer fire you for whistle-blowing?

Employers are prohibited under multiple laws from firing at-will workers for reporting their employers for violating certain laws. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against an employee for filing discrimination complaints. State and federal laws prohibit firing workers for the following reasons:

  • Reporting for jury duty or going to vote
  • Filing workers’ compensation claims
  • Whistleblowing

Can an employer fire you for your race, religion or other personal characteristics?

Federal law and the laws of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey prohibit workplace discrimination based on a person’s protected status, including religion, race, color, age, pregnancy, disability, national origin and genetic information. You may file a charge against your employer with the EEOC or with your state’s corresponding agency if you believe that you were fired for a discriminatory reason.

What to do if you’ve been wrongfully terminated

If you believe that your termination was wrongful, you will want to talk to an experienced employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler. Your attorney may evaluate how strong your claim is and advise you on how to proceed. In most cases, you will need to first file a charge with the EEOC. it is important for you to gather as much evidence as you can.