Demystifying the Meaning of "At Will" Employment

wrongful termination lawyer

Most of the time on this blog, we share statistics relating to accidents and personal injury. That’s both because we want victims to know about their rights and because we want to educate people on their responsibilities and discourage them from engaging in dangerous behavior. The majority of personal injury lawsuits, for example, are filed in response to car accidents, and yet people persist in dangerous practices such as talking on their cell phones while driving (11% of drivers do so regularly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates) or even driving drunk (a crime for which 1.4 million people are arrested each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control).

But today, we want to talk about another area of the law in which victims are often very under-informed about their rights despite widespread problems: employee laws. Most workers know that their employment is “at will,” meaning that their employers can let them go at any time without their doing anything wrong. But what you may not know is that there are certain cases in which your employer is not allowed to fire you. You’ll need to discuss case details with a wrongful termination lawyer before determining if your rights as an employee have been violated, but you should at least know that you cannot be fired in the following situations:

    • If Your Employer Is Discriminating
      Just as your employer isn’t allowed to discriminate in hiring based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, he or she may not fire you for any of those reasons. There are also more limited protections at the federal and some state levels regarding age and sexual orientation; you’d need to talk to a wrongful termination lawyer in your area to determine if those apply where you live.

 

    • If You’ve Been Hurt on the Job
      If you’ve been hurt in a workplace accident, you may not be summarily dismissed. If you are still able to perform your essential job duties, then the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that your employer provide reasonable accommodation.

 

    • If You’ve Refused to Do Something Illegal
      Your employer may not fire you for refusing to perform illegal acts. The flipside of this is that you’re legally responsible for your actions, whether or not your employer told you to carry them out.

 

    • If Your Boss Is Retaliating
      It’s illegal for your employer to fire you because you’ve exposed labor violations or filed a claim (under worker’s comp, for example).

 

  • If Your Company Didn’t Follow Procedure
    This is a tricky category legally because it follows not from major pieces of legislation like Title VII or ADA, but from a company’s own policy. If your company has a set process in place for letting people go and doesn’t follow it, you may have grounds for contacting a wrongful termination lawyer and getting started on a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

Do you think you may have been unlawfully dismissed? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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