What Is At-Will Employment?

At-will employment means that an employer is free to terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, except for illegal ones, without facing any legal liability. Employers can also modify the terms of employment, such as wages, benefits, and on-call work schedules, at their discretion, without any notice or consequences. At-will employment can only be modified through an employment contract that specifies the employer’s terms of employment and termination.

Nonetheless, an employee can leave a job at any time for any reason or no reason without any legal consequences. The majority of employment in the United States (U.S.) is at-will employment.

How do I initiate at-will employment?

To initiate at-will employment, an employer must have the new employee sign an at-will agreement upon hiring. An employee is not obliged to sign the agreement, but refusal can lead to non-selection. If an employee believes that their termination was a result of an exemption, they may choose to take legal action against the employer.

Are there exceptions to at-will employment?

A variety of exceptions preclude the ability to fire an employee at will. These include complying with state and federal labor law, observing public policy, adhering to implied or express contracts, good faith and fair dealing, and avoiding discrimination and retaliation.

Who can utilize at-will employment?

At-will employment goes both ways, which means employers can terminate an employee for any reason, and an employee can resign for any reason without notice.

What are the downsides of at-will employment?

The two main downsides of at-will employment might concern employers. Firstly, employees may feel insecure and may not give their best performance because they are always nervous about being fired, which can lead to low morale and high turnover rates. Secondly, employers may encounter legal issues if they fire an employee unjustly. All states have some form of at-will employment.