The relationship between an employer and an employee is generally defined as “employment-at-will” in most states In layman’s terms, that means that unless there is a written employment contract or evidence of intent by the employer to alter the “at-will” status of the employee, an individual can be terminated for any reason, a good reason, a bad reason, no reason and even the incorrect reason in some cases.
Additionally, in an “at-will” employment relationship, either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without warning.
However, as broad as the “employment-at-will” doctrine is, there are some limitations placed upon an employer when it takes an adverse employment action (demotion, suspension, discharge, transfer, etc.). A decision to terminate, or take some other adverse employment action, by the employer must not be discriminatory or in violation of specific federal or state laws. For example, an employer is legally prohibited from taking any “adverse employment action” against an employee because of his or her age, race, gender, religion, disability, national origin or on the basis of any other legally protected class. Additionally, an employer may also be prohibited from taking an adverse employment action based on the following:
- Filing a complaint of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin or disability;
- Filing or instituting a workers’ compensation claim;
- Missing work for jury duty;
- Refusing to perform an illegal act, when doing so would submit the employee to criminal prosecution;
- Reporting fraud or other violations of law, if the individual is employed by a federal, state, county, or municipality, or a subdivision of any of these. (This prohibition also extends to certain health care workers and those employed by contractors working for or with any of the above entities)
While specific employment laws vary from state to state, all states must comply with the federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, sex, religion, national origin and disability . If you believe your employer has terminated you, or taken any other adverse employment action against you, on a prohibited basis, please contact Brent Coon and Associates in order to receive a free consultation regarding your potential claim.