At-Will Employment and Exceptions

Residents wondering, “Is an at will state?” will discover all states in the nation recognize at-will employment. What is employment at will and how does it affect employees? Apart from the exceptions to at will employment, job opportunities without contracts are voluntary between employers and employees. However, while all states follow the at-will employment doctrine, at will employment exceptions in are different from in other jurisdictions. It is vital for workers to know when wrongful terminations occurs. To learn more about exceptions to al will employment, read about the following topics:

  • What is employment at will?
  • Exceptions to at will employment
  • ‘s burden of proof

What is employment at will?

Aside from exceptions to at will employment, employment at will refers to a common law rule in which either the employer or employee may terminate the working relationship. This means that an employee may quit at any time without notice in addition to the employer dismissing the worker with or without just cause or warning. It is important for workers to discern what employment at will is, however, as not all job opportunities in are at will. For instance, employees with employment contracts are not at will. How an employee leaves previous employment affects his or her unemployment insurance eligibility.

Exceptions to at Will Employment

There are at will employment exceptions in that guard employees from certain terminations from employers. One of the exceptions to at will employment in includes illegal terminations based on unlawful discrimination. Firing a worker due to his or her age, race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs are at will employment exceptions in because they break federal law on discriminatory employment practices. Wrongfully fired employees can find out what to do following a discriminatory termination by clicking here for our comprehensive guide.

Likewise, another exception to at will employment is terminations based on retaliation. Employers may fire a worker in retaliation for filing workers’ compensation, for taking either family or maternity leave or for reporting illegal activities (discrimination, harassment, wage or hour violations). Employers terminated for any of these reasons mentioned should seek compensation for wrongful dismissal of employment. However, employees must first alert the employer or supervisor about the possible violation before reporting it to an outside agency.

There are other common exceptions to at will employment recognized in different areas of the nation. Acknowledgement of these at will employment exceptions vary in each state, with some imploring select concessions. The first of these three exceptions to at will employment is the public policy omission, which prohibits the firing of an employee for reporting illegal activities or refusing to do their job if it violates the law. This at will employment exception is not currently apart of law. While does not accept the public policy exception as a whole, the state prohibits retaliatory actions against employees who:

  • Object to or refuse to take part in activities that are in direct violation of a law or regulation.
  • Testify or provide information to a government agent who is investigating, inquiring into or holding a hearing for an alleged illegal activity by the employer.
  • Disclose or threaten to disclose information about activities or policies that violate the law. The employee must have previously brought the activity or policy to the attention of the employer or supervisor in writing to correct first.

The implied contract exception to at will employment refers to inferred agreements of employment such as an offer letter. Most often, an employee handbook may imply a contract with statements about treatment of employees in certain circumstances. By means of example, the company’s policy may state that a verbal or written warning will precede a termination. Exceptions to at will employment in do not include implied contracts.

The third common at will employment exceptions is the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This exception to at will employment, concerns the honest and ethical treatment of workers. It prohibits firing workers to avoid paying earned rewards, using coercion to force them to quit or creating false reasons for firing them. This is also not a recognized at will employment exceptions. Terminated employees who wish to know more about if they qualify for worker’s compensation, can download our free guide here.

About ‘s Burden of Proof

For each of the exceptions to at will employment, the terminated employee has the burden of presenting proof that the violation occurred. The worker must be able to prove that a violation took place on the part of the employer. While it is important to know what is employment at will, it is also important to learn how to establish evidence of wrongful termination. Wrongfully terminated workers can click here to find out more about filing a discrimination charge in our guide.