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Understanding your rights as an at-will employee

Many employment contracts are at-will and for most employees, this arrangement can seem precarious: at-will employees can be fired at any time for any reason whatsoever, right?

Actually, no! If you are an at-will employee, your employment may be terminated arbitrarily or without reason; however, your employer may not break employment laws in firing you and there are several forms of illegal termination of at-will employees.

Unlawful termination of at-will employees

Though an at-will employee carries the risk of termination, your employer must still adhere to employment laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law prohibiting employer discrimination on the basis of:

  • Age. Whether you are young, old, or somewhere in between, your employer is not allowed to terminate you based on your age.
  • Gender. Male and female employees are equally entitled to maintain at-will employment and firing a worker based on gender is illegal.
  • Disability. Your employer may not fire you on the basis of disability; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) holds that disabled and able-bodied workers shall have equal rights to employment.
  • Pregnancy. If you become pregnant during the course of your employment, your employer is prohibited from firing you on the basis of your pregnancy.

State and federal laws also protect you from termination based on national origin or religion and some states protect workers from termination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, employers are prohibited from firing an employee as a form of retaliation against employees who make claims.

Have your at-will employment rights been violated?

Though at-will employees may be fired on arbitrary grounds (for example, an employer dislikes your coffee preparation habits), if illegal discrimination or retaliation is involved, your employer is breaking the law and should be held accountable.

If you've been affected by wrongful termination, you should seek the assistance of an experienced employment law firm. They can help guide you through filing a claim against your employer for unlawful termination.

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