Whoever you are and wherever you work, whether you like your job or not, employment is what allows us to support ourselves and our families, to pay the bills, to maintain independence. For those who are in employed positions, having some assurance of job security is therefore important. The reality is, though, that most employees do not have any special protections when it comes to termination of their employment.
This is because most employees are employed on at "at will" basis. At will employment is the principle that an employer may terminate an employee for any legal reason or no reason at all, with no legal consequences. At-will employment is actually the presumption in every state except Montana.
At will employment also implies that an employer is allowed to change the terms of the employment contract without notice without legal consequences. This includes changing the wage rate and benefits, provided minimum protections under state and federal law are respected.
There are various exceptions to the at-will employment rule. First and foremost, as we mentioned, are contract changes and terminations which violate state and federal law. Exceptions in this category include discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age disability and veteran status. Another exception to the at will employment rule is retaliation, which refers to adverse employment action against an employee who attempts to exercise his or her legal rights.
In our next post, we'll continue this discussion, looking at how an experienced employment law attorney can help represent an employee whose rights have been violated.