One of the newest ways used by many firms in hiring job applicants is through an offer an “at will” employment contract. The “Employment at Will” doctrine, now a legal business practice in almost all U.S. states, recognizes the right of an employee to resign from work anytime; in like manner, it gives the employer the right to terminate an employee whenever he/she decides that such employee’s services are no longer needed. Resignation from work or termination of work contract may be done whether the reason is justifiable or not, or even if there is no reason at all. A court would usually not intervene to protect the employee unless any of the laws that protect employee rights, such as the right against wrongful termination, has been violated.
Many job application forms, employment contracts, and employee handbooks in the U.S. now contain this short “at will’ phrase. Despite adhering to this statute, however, state authorities do not ignore claims of unjust termination, specifically those that are based on discrimination. While companies may be allowed to fire anyone to enable it to cut costs, or for whatever reason or absence of reason, this will remain illegal if the cause of termination can be proven to be due to a person’s religion, sex, race, color, age, or any of the factors protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act strictly prohibits employment discrimination of those presently employed or seeking work.
Proving termination as unlawful will be a hard thing to prove, though, especially for “at will” employees. Despite this “at will” practice, employers should not forget that there are laws that continue to protect and uphold the rights and interests of employees and job applicants.
According to the Leichter Law Firm, besides terminating an employee due to illegal discrimination, wrongful termination can also be committed through retaliation against a worker who:
- Files a workers’ compensation claim;
- Complains about his/her company’s unjust employment practices; or
- Refuses to perform an illegal act ordered by his/her employer