What It Means To Work In An At-Will State?

If you are employed at-will that means that your employment can come to an end abruptly, without much explanation or prior warning by your employers. However, when you accept at-will employment it also means you can leave the company without giving a notice. In turn, employers are granted authority to dismiss you under loose conditions that otherwise, won’t apply to regular employees. The legal system will be on their side irrespective of the damages you sustained due to the termination as long as it abides specific guidelines. Despite its unique conditions, at-will employment can offer flexibility to both employer and employee and can result in a comfortable work environment without the need of commitments. For instance, employers can change the terms of your contract without notice or without any repercussions. Similarly, you can ask for the work you need. Rights of an At-will Employee Fortunately, the government recognizes and protects such employees under special conditions. For instance, at-will employees cannot be fired if their employer has to follow state laws pertaining to job discrimination. In other words, your employment cannot be terminated on the basis of religion, ethnicity, race or gender. Plus, you cannot be let go if you voiced concerns regarding illicit activities in your workplace, complained about harassment or about health and safety violations that could result in injuries. In addition, you cannot be fired for exercising your legal rights. This includes your right to take days off to serve in the military, for medical reasons or to vote or serve jury duty. This is accepted in states that accept at-will employment such as:
  • Nebraska
  • Alabama
  • Louisiana
  • Rhode Island
  • Georgia
  • Maine
  • New York
In these states, at-will employees cannot be fired if they take action that can be beneficial for the public at large. This includes reporting legal issues, violations and refusing to follow orders by their employers if they think their actions could break the law. In addition, they cannot be fired if they file a compensation claim. At-will employees who are hired by a company with a termination policy which states that they can be fired for certain reasons can also contest their termination. In this case, the policy implies that an employment contract can stop a worker from being fired if they do not violate certain rules. Even if the contract is verbal i.e. the employer says that the employee can be kicked out for certain reasons, that in itself can be treated as a verbal contract. However, as an at-will employee, you will have to prove this yourself. Some states recognize an exception known as ‘fair dealing’ or the ‘covenant in good faith.’ Under this law, an at-will employee cannot be fired if the employer wants to avoid giving them their rightful work benefits. This includes healthcare, commissions, pensions etc. When Should You Work as an At-Will Employee? You don’t need to sign up as an at-will employee but most courts side with employers if they want to fire you or not hire you. Plus, even if you decide not to sign the agreement, most employees work at-will anyway which means they can leave without notice or be fired without notice. However, that does not mean you are trapped. Just because you refuse to sign the agreement does not mean that employers can terminate employment without a valid reason. Smart ones know that firing you without reason can land them in hot water. That is why most try to motivate their staff to work before resorting to terminations. Workplace Safety and Compliance Library Our Workplace Safety and Compliance Library has all of the resources you need to create a company hiring policy. Sign up for the yearly subscription today and get access to limitless materials you can use to create effective training programs as well. Want to give the subscription a try first? Try our monthly package or better yet, try out the 7-day FREE trial and see what you have been missing out on. Sign up for a subscription today and always have access to the material you need.

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