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What you need to know about at-will employment

Many people understandably take immense pride in their work. Indeed, they may consider themselves as nothing less than model employees given that they always put in a solid eight hours of work, always meet their goals and always perform to the best of their abilities.

That's precisely why it can prove to be so utterly devastating to these people when they learn that they are being let go by their employer. Compounding this devastation further is the fact that they may never even be informed as to why they are being terminated.

If all this seem unjust or perhaps like it's against the law, it's actually perfectly legal due to a concept known as at-will employment.

At-will employment: Background

The overwhelming majority of employees here in Florida and across the U.S. are considered at-will. What this means from a legal standpoint is that employees can be terminated by their employers for any otherwise legal reason -- or no reason whatsoever -- without facing any liability.

In addition, it means that employers are legally permitted to introduce significant changes without warning or securing the approval of employees ahead of time. Indeed, employers in at-will relationships can do everything from cut wages and reduce hours to eliminate benefits and decrease time-off as they see fit.  

It is important to note, however, that the concept of at-will employment technically works both ways, as employees are also free to quit their job for any reason -- or no reason -- whatsoever without facing any legal consequences.

All this naturally begs the question as to why 49 states -- excluding Montana -- embrace at-will employee relationships.

While there is no definitive answer, one of the reasons most commonly advanced is that it affords greater freedom of movement to employers and employees alike.

We'll continue this discussion in future posts, including examining exceptions to the presumption of at-will employment. In the meantime, if you have any concerns about being wrongfully terminated, please consider consulting with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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