Under at-will employment laws, employers have the right to terminate an employee for any legal reason. A legal reason does not always mean a fair one or one that makes sense. An employer may choose to fire you just because they do not like your personality. Employees, however, are not powerless. At-will employment laws also allow them to quit their jobs for any reason whenever they want to.
While many reasons for termination are legal, there are some reasons for termination that are against the law. Some of these reasons may include:
Employers may not legally terminate an employee for reporting an employer’s involvement in illegal activity.
Employers must not terminate an employee to retaliate against them for reporting harassment, filing a complaint with the EEOC, or otherwise exercising their legal rights.
Employers may not terminate an employee for their protected characteristics. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these characteristics may include:
- National origin
- Age (if over 40)
- Sexual orientation
Breach of contract
An employee may have signed an employment contract when they were hired. The terms of the contract may vary, have terms in their contract that require that their termination be based on just cause. An employer may not terminate an employee if it violates their contract.
Employees who have been terminated for illegal reasons may file a wrongful termination suit against their employer.