You’ve probably noticed that job security isn’t a big thing in our society. Most people who work in America are what’s called “at-will employees.”
In a nutshell, at-will employment means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the arrangement at any time for almost any reason.
If you’re an employee, your employer can fire you whenever they want, for any reason they want. If you’re an employer, your workers can quit whenever they want and go get a job somewhere else.
That’s how it is for most workers in this country — more than two-thirds of them, according to various estimates.
So if you’re looking for work on a popular job board like ZipRecruiter or one of its competitors — or if you’re a company posting an open position there — it’s important to know exactly what at-will employment means for you.
How to Know If You’re an At-Will Employee
Don’t worry — most employers will spell this out for you. You can typically find this clearly stated in your employee handbook, and/or in various pieces of paperwork that you’ll sign upon accepting the job.
Generally speaking, unless you belong to a union, or you’re a government employee, or you work under a contract specifying how long you’ll be employed, then it’s a good bet that you’re an at-will employee.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment
There are exceptions, though. Not every worker is an at-will employee. Also, there are certain circumstances in which a company can’t fire an at-will employee.
Let’s go through those exceptions one by one.
Getting Fired for an Illegal Reason
It’s a little too simple to say you can be fired for any reason at all. Even if you’re an at-will employee, you can’t be fired for an illegal reason.
Under US employment law, an employer can’t fire at-will employees because of their age, gender, race, religion, nationality, disability, military status, or in many states, because of their sexual orientation….