19 Feb 2015

How Does “At Will” Employment Impact Claims of Wrongful Discharge?

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If a Palm Beach employee intends to allege wrongful discharge from his or her station of employment, it’s important to understand how at-will employment contracts influence working relationships. If there is no employment contract providing additional protections and rights, governing civil-service regulations that govern public employment, or a union collective bargaining agreement, and employee’s status in Palm Beach can be classified as “at will”.

In essence, this means that the employee only works at the will of the employer. The employer determines the conditions in terms of that employment. The employer also has the right to alter the terms and conditions at any time. The employer can do this without any notice and for any reason you or she chooses. This is critical in wrongful discharge cases because an employee cannot allege that he or she was wrongfully terminated in most cases where the employment was at will. Unfortunately for employees, this means that the employer can generally terminate an employee even if the reason is unethical, immoral, or unfair.

There are, however, some exceptions to the “at will” stipulations. Local, state, and federal laws prohibit an employer from terminating an employee because of their membership in a protected class. This includes an employee is involved in protected conduct like complaining about sexual harassment or discrimination, claiming workers’ compensation benefits, participating in a discrimination investigation, serving on a jury, or taking eligible time under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you have been wrongfully discharged under these stipulations, you may be entitled to legal recourse.