What is ‘at-will employment’?

What is ‘at-will employment’?

Question: What is ‘at-will employment’? Can I fire an employee for any reason?

Answer: Yes and no. At-will employment means the employer or employee can end the employment relationship for almost any reason (with or without cause) at any time (with or without notice).

It does not, however, allow you to terminate someone for an illegal reason, like their inclusion in a protected class or their exercise of a legal right.

Every state (except Montana) assumes the employment relationship is at-will unless there is a legal agreement in place that says otherwise. Assuming you want to maintain the at-will relationship with employees, we recommend including clear language about this in your Staff Handbook and setting clear expectations for behavior and beliefs in a Staff Lifestyle Agreement. But keep in mind that even with an at-will relationship, terminations carry risk.

A terminated employee can always claim they were terminated for an illegal reason, at which point you’ll want to be able to show otherwise. To reduce that risk, you should have and document a lawful, business-related reason for each termination.

Original content by HR Ministry Solutions. This information is provided with the understanding that Payroll Partners is not rendering legal, human resources, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from a lawyer, HR consultant or other professional.