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Are you an at-will employee?

| Sep 15, 2017 | Wage And Hour |

Your worst fear may be to be fired from your job in Kansas City. Yet you likely hold on to the assumption that your employer cannot fire you without for no reason. Is that true? Missouri, like most states, follows the principle of “at-will employment,” which basically allows companies to fire employees for any reason (except an illegal one) or no reason at all. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the at-will presumption allows companies to alter the terms of employment, including cutting wages, reducing paid leave or terminating benefits. After having read this, you likely have one question: Am I an at-will employee? 

If you do not have a contract with your employer, then the answer is yes. An employment contract not only allows you to negotiate your salary and benefits, but also what actions would result in your dismissal. With such an agreement in place, your employer can only then fire you for cause (or in other words, for violating the terms of your contract). 

If you do not have a written employment contract, then the at-will presumption may make it seem as though you are completely vulnerable. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. These include: 

  • Public policy: Your employer cannot fire you for acting in the public’s interest, such as reporting a crime or refusing to do something that violates the law. 
  • Implied contracts: You may be protected from firing if your employer has implied employment assurances through statements, practices, policies or employer handbooks.
  • Implied covenant of good faith: Your employer cannot be acting in bad faith by firing you (such as letting you go before having to pay you a commission or bonus).

Instances involving racial, gender or religious discrimination may also be considered illegal reasons for terminating your employment.