If you’ve never heard of employment at will, you need to become aware of the rights of companies and what it means in how your job might be terminated in the future. Most people automatically think that a company needs to provide a valid reason if they decide to fire you without notice. But if you signed an agreement that hides an employment at will concept, you’re at the mercy of being fired at any time.
You need to be extra judicious when signing employee documents or looking through an employee manual. Fortunately, you have some methods that can prevent you from losing your job if you decide to fight to gain your job back.
Checking Documents for Employment at Will
Be sure to read every word of the papers you sign once you’re hired to work for a company. It’s unfortunate how many people don’t take the time to read those documents to see if there’s provisions on how an employee can be fired. Most employers have to list some reasons for firing as a form of protection on their part. Sometimes, though, you might not see any reasons for firing in the documents and instead in the employee manual.
Just like most manuals, most people don’t bother to read an employee manual either. Those manuals may give a list of reasons why you’d be fired, says Nolo. If they give reasons as being “no cause”, then you’ll be stuck under the employment at will scenario.
What Happens if You Refuse to Sign an At Will Agreement?
Nolo also states that if you refuse to sign an employment at will agreement, employers have a right to not hire you. This doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still hire you, and you have the right not to sign the document. Keep in mind that if your employer only goes by word of mouth on a firing policy, it won’t hold up in court if you ever fight for your job back.
Almost all companies, however, are going to have some kind of firing policy in writing to protect themselves legally.
Contracts Without a Firing At Will Agreement
It’s possible that you can negotiate with the company to create a contract that’s binding for a set amount of months or years. While these type of contracts usually can’t be negotiated unless you’re an extremely valuable employee, you have better legal protection if you’re fired before the contract term is up. Most non-at-will contracts will state that you’d only be fired under the most extreme circumstances, as in if you commit a crime.
Fighting for Your Job Back
Some people may love their job so much that they’ll fight in court if they become terminated without a good reason. Even if you’re under the pressure of an at-will contract, you still have rights depending on state laws. Many states have non-discrimination laws that can be used in your favor if you think your firing was discriminatory. Discrimination can go beyond race or sexual preference and sometimes happens when taking leave for medical purposes or for calling out violations in the company.
For the most part, an employer won’t fire people randomly. They risk too much possibility of legal battles going that way. The important thing is you and your employer should be on the same page about your contract and that you don’t live in fear of being fired for a reason you know isn’t fair.