Can businesses fire employees whenever they want?

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2022 | Employment Law |

It’s fairly common knowledge that employers don’t need a reason to terminate an employee. While they can terminate an employee without cause, they can’t terminate the employee for participating in a protected activity. They also can’t terminate someone because they refuse to take part in something illegal.

There are several reasons that a company can’t fire an employee. These include protected activities, like making a complaint about discrimination or harassment occurring in the workplace. Other protected activities include filing a report about something illegal going on in the business or making a report about safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Termination in those cases could be construed as retaliation. 

Employee handbooks and contracts also limit an employer’s abilities

Employees and companies are also expected to follow the terms in the employee handbook and those in contracts. It’s possible for an employee to lose their job if they violate those terms. Employers can’t terminate an employee if that termination goes against the contract or handbook. 

For example, if company policy in the handbook is that an employee who’s tardy gets a verbal warning on the first offense, a written warning on the second, and termination on the third, the company can’t fire the employee on a first or second tardy. The handbook itself can be considered a contract.

When wrongful termination occurs, the former employee may opt to take legal action against the employer. These matters are often complex and serious. Regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, you should learn your options so you can do what’s in your best interests as quickly as possible.