The Basics of At Will Employment
Forty-two US states, including Texas, observe the legal doctrine of at will employment. This doctrine gives employers the right to fire employees at any time for almost any reason, while employees have the right to leave a job whenever they wish. While this law was written to preserve people’s freedom and protect the free market, it can have downsides for workers.
Exceptions to At Will Employment
Some jobs require new employees to sign contracts spelling out the length of their employment and the conditions under which they can be fired. These contracts legally override at will employment laws. In other words, breaking a contract is illegal regardless of at will employment laws.
It is also illegal for employers to fire workers for certain things, including:
- Refusing to commit illegal acts
- Discrimination based on race, religion, sex, nationality, color, ability, or age
- Taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act
Pros and Cons
At will employment can be a good arrangement for employees. For example, people who strongly dislike their jobs have the option of simply quitting, as long as they are not under contract. Even giving two weeks notice is a formality, not a legal requirement.
Unfortunately, at will employment also creates job instability. Many workers live with anxiety about possibly being fire without warning or good reason. This anxiety is especially severe during tough economic times. Some unscrupulous employers will even take advantage of workers’ fears by overworking or underpaying them.
Contact an Austin Employment Lawyer
If your legally protected employment rights are being violated, contact Austin employment lawyers The Melton Law Firm at (512) 330-0017 for help.