Can I Be Wrongfully Terminated If I Am An At-Will Employee?

Many people mistakenly think that they can’t be wrongfully terminated if they live in an at-will employment state. But, you can be illegally fired even if your state is an at-will employment state. If you have been fired from a job for an illegal reason, you may be eligible to file a complaint against your employer for wrongful termination.

What Is At-Will Employment?

At-will employment is just what it sounds like. It means that your employer can fire you for almost any reason without any notice. It also means that you can quit for any reason without giving any kind of notice.

All states in the United States are at-will employment states, but some of them do have exceptions built into the state’s at-will provisions. For example, in Montana, there are protections that make it tougher for employers to fire employees once the employees make it through a set probationary period.  However, in most states, employers can fire employees for any reason, or no reason.

But there are some cases where Federal and state anti-discrimination laws make it illegal for employers to fire employees if they are fired as a form of discrimination. If an employer fires an employee for reasons that are illegal that is wrongful termination.

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination happens when an employer fires an employee for a reason that is legally protected. For example, if an employer fires an employee because they are Muslim and wear a head scarf - that’s illegal. It violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which states that an employer can’t fire an employee because of their religion. Other situations where firing someone is considered wrongful termination include:

  • An employer fires an employee for reporting unsafe working conditions.
  • An employer fires an employee because of their race, religion, national origin, age, genetic information, color, or sex (sexual orientation or gender identity).
  • An employee reports the employer to OSHA for safety violations and the employer fires the employee.
  • A pregnant employee is fired because they can’t lift 50 pounds.

In these types of situations, it doesn’t matter if the employee is working in an at-will employment state. The at-will employment doctrine doesn’t apply when the reason for the termination is something that is legally protected, like a pregnancy or being a certain race.

What Should I Do If I Was Illegally Fired?

If you were illegally fired, you should file a claim against your employer with the EEOC. When you submit your claim, you will also need to submit lots of proof that your employer fired you illegally.

It’s a good idea to keep copies of all emails, chats, videos, and other communications that you had with your coworkers, supervisor or employer. You should also speak to an attorney who specializes in wrongful termination. A lawyer can help you go over your documents, make sure you have all the evidence and are ready to file a claim with the EEOC.

Get Help With Your Wrongful Termination Claim

Fill out a free Case Evaluation now to be connected with an independent, participating employment lawyer who subscribes to the website and  can help you with your case.