Can At Will Employees Sue for Wrongful Termination

Can At Will Employees Sue for Wrongful Termination?

At-will employees have the option to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination in specific situations.

Regardless of the employee handbook explicitly indicating that the employer possesses the authority to end the employment arrangement at any moment and for any cause.

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Can At Will Employees Sue for Wrongful Termination
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What Can At-Will Employment Laws Allow You to Do?

At-will employment laws let you fire an employee if they’re not doing their job well or if they’ve behaved badly.

But you can also let go of an employee, even if they’ve been doing everything right.

Often, businesses have to think about money when making these decisions.

Employing someone costs a lot – you pay their salary, taxes, and maybe even health insurance.

In tough times, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses might not be able to keep all their workers.

Is It a Coincidence if You Fired Someone Right After They Did Something Protected?

If an employer fires an employee as punishment for something called a “protected activity,” the employee can sue for wrongful termination.

Here are some examples of protected activities:

  • Complaining about discrimination at work or saying you will complain
  • Asking for accommodations because of a disability or religious beliefs (like prayer breaks or wearing certain clothes)
  • Taking time off for jury duty
  • Requesting family or medical leave
  • Reporting a work injury for workers’ compensation
  • Refusing to do something illegal for the employer
  • Reporting illegal things the employer is doing

Wrongful termination issues can come up when an employee does a protected activity and then loses their job during a “corporate restructuring.”

If this happens, your lawyer can help you figure out your rights in ending the employment relationship.


You might have heard of “at-will” employment, but let’s break it down.

In simple terms, it means both the boss and the worker can end the job whenever they want, for any reason. But, the boss can’t fire someone for reasons that break the law.

“Wrongful termination” might sound like a big deal, but it’s not illegal to fire an at-will employee for a bad or unfair reason.

Instead, lawyers check if the firing was because of something illegal, like discrimination, revenge, sexual harassment, a tough work environment, or breaking the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rules.

Now, some high-up folks, might have special work contracts that only let the boss fire them in certain situations.

Like giving notice ahead of time or having a really good reason.

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At Will Employees Sue for Wrongful Termination
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Conclusion on Can At Will Employees Sue for Wrongful Termination

The question of whether at-will employees can sue for wrongful termination has a nuanced answer.

While at-will employment generally allows both the employer and employee to terminate the working relationship at any time and for any reason, there are exceptions.

At-will employees do have legal recourse to sue for wrongful termination under specific circumstances.

Particularly when the termination is based on unlawful reasons such as discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, or violations of employment laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The outcome of such lawsuits will depend on the specific facts of each case and the applicable employment laws in the jurisdiction.

Therefore, while at-will employment provides flexibility, it is not an absolute shield against legal action in cases of wrongful termination.

ALSO READ: What is Wrongful Termination in California?

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