What is “at-will” and How Can it Affect Me?

golden fountain pen signing an employment contract

At-will employment is a term used in Texas labor law to describe a type of relationship between employees and employers, also known as a right to work state. This type of employee can be terminated at any time and for any reason — barring anti-discrimination laws. Same for the employee, due to being at-will, an employee may end their employment for any reason at any time.

Most states to this day still endorse at-will employment as it has become the default under the common employment law. Employers are not required to have an employment contract when hiring a person, however, it may contain some protections that differ from the general at-will rule.

At-Will vs. Just Cause Employment

To further understand at-will employment, it is essential to differentiate it from other types of employment, including just-cause. Just-cause employment can lead to immediate termination of an employment contract due to employee misconduct, also used for union workers. Typically written in their union contract, the provision states that union workers can only be fired if found guilty of committing a job violation that they were aware of, was regularly enforced, and has been reprimanded before being officially discharged. With at-will employment, however, employers and employees have the power to sever their relationship at any time.

Lawyer Intervention and At-Will Employment

The tenets that make an employment contract can change, essentially changing the type of employment. According to the Dallas Business Journal, there are four main parts of an employment agreement: confidentiality, copyrightable work, employee conduct, and standard provisions.

As an at-will state, Texan workers need to be particularly aware of any changing elements in their employment contracts. Add to the fact that there are various types of contracts with some being verbal and some contracts being implied; workers can potentially have the short end of the stick when it comes to the details of their employment.

There may be a list of laws an employer can inadvertently break when wrongfully terminating an at-will employee. Due to the nature of their employment, many at-will workers believe that their employment is largely contingent on the whims of their employers. However, state and federal laws prohibit discrimination based on gender, age, national origin, race, disability, and pregnancy status.

It is important to understand that there is also a lot of gray areas. If you have a contract with an employer, even if it is a suggested or implied contract that happens to end prematurely, then your employer may have breached the contract, and you may have a legal claim. Employment termination as a form of retaliation is also grounds for a wrongful termination claim.

Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas (LRS)

As an at-will employee, your employer does not have the right to fire you for any reason if they run afoul of state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas is a search engine to connect at-will employees within the state of Texas with an attorney that specializes in the different levels of employment. If you feel you have been discriminated in the workplace, retaliated against for reporting a safety hazard or illegal activity, or may have an employment contract to review, contact us today.

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