Learn About At-Will Employment and Exceptions

A variety of at will employment exceptions are in place to amend and clarify the general policy of at-will employment. You may be wondering “What is employment at will?” if you are not familiar with the term already. At-will employment is a concept in which an employer may fire an employee with or without cause as long as a contract or agreed-upon, limited work term is not in place. In other words, at-will employment gives a company considerable flexibility in its termination decisions, but it also gives you, the employee, the freedom to leave a job that you are not contractually obligated to keep. At-will employment rules apply to if you are a senior or a worker of any other age. There are three major exceptions to at will employment that you should be familiar with no matter your age. These exceptions do not allow an employer to discriminate or break the law when terminating employees. Rather, exceptions grant you additional rights that are not explicitly stated in the general agreement of at-will employment. Below, learn more about the exceptions to employment at will and discover how these rules can affect your workplace.

Do at will employment exceptions affect me?

If you are a senior who is unfamiliar with what at will employment is, then you may also be unaware of the ways that these rules and exceptions can affect you. At will employment exceptions do not apply in every state, but it is important to be aware that the broad policy of at-will employment is found almost everywhere in the country. Many seniors do not realize that they are technically considered at-will employees. In general, at will employment exceptions do not cover employees who do not have a contract and did not accept a job that offered a limited-period assignment. With that in mind, knowing the at will employment exceptions is crucial, as it can affect your current and future job security. The three exceptions to at will employment are adopted by some states, but not by others. A state can also be selective in choosing to apply one exception, but not the other two. Therefore, your rights under the at-will employment rules can vary greatly based on where you live. Learn more about the exceptions that exist in your state by reading our guide to senior services.

What are the 3 major at-will employment exemptions?

Each of the existing exceptions to at-will employment for seniors and other employees was initiated after an employee felt that he or she was wrongfully terminated and took his or her complaint to court. At will employment exceptions were legally recognized after a state heard a court case and decided to make a ruling on the matter. While there are still many court cases relating to at-will employment and wrongful termination today, the three main exceptions have already been established in court, meaning that states now refer to the laws created by these prior rulings when hearing new cases relating to the same exceptions. Each exception is explained in more detail below.

To learn more about how at will employment exceptions affect seniors and other workers, you can also download our guide to senior services here for more detailed information.

Information About the Public Policy Exemption

The first of the at will employment exceptions for seniors and other employees is the public policy exemption. Under this exception to at-will employment, an employee cannot be fired for exercising his or her rights under a well-established policy in the state where he or she works. Public policy is a difficult term for both employees and employers to understand due to its broad definition, but it generally means any policy that exists for the good of the public. For example, in states that recognize this at will employment exception, an employee cannot be terminated for refusing to break the law on behalf of his or her employer. Specifically, this can mean that an employee is usually not obligated to lie under oath during a trial in which his or her employer is being accused of wrongdoing.

Find Out About the Implied Contract Exemption

Another one of the major at will employment exceptions is that certain states do not allow employers to fire workers if an implied agreement exists. This exception to at will employment for seniors and other workers exists because many jobs promise some level of job stability when offering a position. Most employers do not, however, use an explicitly stated contract that guarantees security under a variety of circumstances. When the implied contract exception is in place, an employee can open a wrongful termination case if he or she is fired without reason from a workplace that has indicated that employees cannot be fired without cause.

Learn About the Covenant-of-Good-Faith Exemption

The last of the at will employment exceptions states that an employee cannot be fired without reason regardless of whether there is an expressly written contract, an implied contract or a verbal contract. In other words, this exception to at will employment broadly provides extra rights to every employee who works in a state that has adopted the covenant-of-good-faith exception. This at will employment exception policy has only been adopted by a few states due to how wide-ranging its implications are.