At-will employees can be fired for any reason. The company doesn’t even really need to have a reason at all. As long as they’re not doing something illegal, like firing minority workers because of the minority group they belong to, they can terminate employees at any time.
Many executives, however, have employment contracts. These contracts may stipulate that they can only be fired for cause. What does this mean, and why can it create conflicts?
A valid reason
Essentially, being fired for cause just means that there has to be a valid reason that the company can point to when asked why you were fired. This could have something to do with your interactions with customers, business decisions you made or even illegal activity. But the company has to have a reason to let you go before the termination of your contract. They can’t simply fire you just to get you off of the payroll if you had a contractual agreement for a certain amount of time.
This can lead to conflicts because there may be a disagreement over whether or not they have cause to fire you. Maybe they claim that you did something illegal, and you maintain your innocence. Maybe they say that your actions have harmed the company, but you believe you didn’t do anything wrong. Essentially, the two sides can disagree on whether or not there really is a cause, which means that the subsequent termination could be unlawful.
If you do find yourself in a situation like this, with your career on the line, make sure you know about your legal options.