What Does At-Will Employment Really Mean?


Many employers hire their employees “at will.” But what does this language actually mean? In this blog, I explain what at-will employment is and how it might affect you.

An employee who has signed an at-will agreement can be fired at any time, for any reason. However, there are a few reasons that I will cover later on that would be considered illegal. At will employees have limited legal recourse when they are fired from their job. In many states, employers are free to adopt at-will employment policies, enabling them to fire a worker without needing good cause. Unless you can prove otherwise, the law will usually presume that you are employed at-will.

Most employers include at-will agreements in their written policies, applications, handbooks, job evaluations, and other employment-related documents. It is important to carefully read all of these documents to see which ones mention at-will employment, especially documents that require a signature. Remember, even if a document doesn’t explicitly state “at-will,” other language that says you can be fired for “any reason” indicates that the employer operates under an at-will policy.

There are employers who use policies that require good cause to fire an employee. These employers provide a list of specific reasons for termination and job protections. If you employer has such policies, you can use them in court for a wrongful termination claim. Contracts that promises job security indicate that the employer does not use at-will employment policies. Employees who are fired for any reason not specified in the contract, can take legal action against the employer for breach of contract.

Have more questions about at-will employment? Contact our Hollister employment law attorney to get help today.