Can I Be Fired For No Reason?

Generally, yes. The general rule is that unless there is an agreement stating otherwise, all employees are considered “at-will" employees. As an “at-will" employee, you can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all. For example, if your boss wants to fire you so that his boss’ sister can take your position, then he can without consequence. However there are a number of exceptions to this rule. Common exceptions to the “at-will" employment rule are:

  • A contract or collective bargaining agreement between the employer and employee providing that the employee cannot be fired without good cause;
  • Termination that violates public policy (discrimination, retaliation, etc.); and
  • Termination that results after the employee’s reasonable reliance on the job offer when the employer knows the employee has had to quit another job, leave school, or move closer to the job.

Employment statutes and legal issues can be complicated, with a lot of shifting burdens and legal hurdles to filing a claim in the first place. To learn more about labor and employment law click here to do some more research.

Does My Employer Have To Give Me Notice Before I Can Be Fired Or Laid Off?

It depends.  If you are considered an “at-will” employee, your employer can terminate your employment without notice.  However, if you have an employment contract, or if you are a union member covered by a collective bargaining agreement, you may be entitled to certain notice prior to termination of employment under the contract or bargaining agreement.  Also, in some situations, the WARN Act provides for notice to workers prior to certain plant closings and mass lay-offs. Finally, in addition to federal laws, there may be certain state laws requiring notice to employees prior to termination or lay-off.   

What Is "Good Cause" for Being Terminated or Fired?

If there is an agreement that protects you from being fired without “good cause,” then before the employer terminates you, the employer must be able to show some legitimate reason for the termination. The most typical form of “good cause” is poor work performance or some sort of misconduct at work. For example, if an employee regularly does not perform their job requirements, then the employer probably has the right to terminate the employee with good cause. If however, the employer terminates the employee because he or she does like the employee, then there is no good cause.

How Is Severance Calculated And When Is It Due?

There is no requirement in the FLSA for severance pay. Severance pay is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative).  However, if there is a contract of employment which entitles the employee to severance pay, or sometimes even if its simply a matter of policy that certain positions receive severance pay, then the employee might have a legal claim if severance is not paid accordingly. 
The Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA) may be able to assist an employee who did not receive severance pay required in his or her employment contract.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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