Does an employer need a reason to fire you? Is it legal to fire someone without good cause? What can you do if it happens to you?
Can You Get Fired for No Reason?
Unfortunately, getting fired without a reason can happen to just about anyone. In many cases, unless there is a contract or bargaining agreement, employees are considered covered under employment at will, which means your employer doesn’t need a reason to fire you.
But even if it beats the alternative – being fired without cause or a financial cushion – unemployment or severance isn’t much consolation when you’ve been let go for no reason. Let’s look at why it’s so easy for employers to fire workers without giving cause.
Employment at Will
For most states in the US, employment-at-will has become a standard precedent of employment contracts in recent years. At-will employment is an employer-employee agreement in which a worker can be fired or dismissed for any reason, without warning and without explanation.
Check with your state Department of Labor for regulations in your location.
Most at-will employees are informed and even required to sign waivers indicating their acknowledgment of being hired “at will.” As a result, loss claims for being fired under this kind of agreement typically get denied by the court.
While it might seem unfair to be expected to give your employer two weeks’ notice, when they can pretty much terminate you at will, without notice – and often will, to prevent retaliation from workers who are on their way out, but still holding down a desk – remember that the reason for giving notice is actually a selfish one. You want to build a network of former colleagues who think well of you and would give you a recommendation without reservation. Giving notice helps ensure that this will be the case.
Some employees are covered by an employment agreement or employment contract, which typically outline terms of employment. These contracts may also detail the circumstances and terms under which an employee can be fired.
Other employees are covered by union or association agreements known as collective bargaining agreements. These agreements typically also detail when and how an employee can be fired.
An employee can be wrongfully terminated if discrimination is involved in the termination, if public policy is violated, or if company policy states guidelines for termination and then the company fails to follow those guidelines.