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Does at-will employment affect a wrongful termination claim?

In many states, the most common form of employment is what is called "at-will" employment. This means that an employee can be terminated at the employer's will. The employer doesn't need to provide the employee with a reason for the termination, and he or she doesn't need to provide any type of advance warning or notification. Montana is the only state that doesn't recognize at-will employment.

Does that mean someone can be fired for any reason? No, it doesn't. There are many reasons why an employee's termination could be considered a "wrongful termination."

First, if there is an employment contract in place and an employee is terminated in clear violation of that contract, that could result in a claim for wrongful termination. Second, an employer cannot fire someone for any type of discriminatory reason, such as for their race, religion, ethnicity, disability, gender and more. Third, an employee cannot be retaliated against for reporting illegal activity, such as violations of the wage and hour laws.

The most commonly-known forms of wrongful termination are those that happen on discriminatory grounds. Workers are prohibited from being penalized or fired because of their age, sex, pregnancy, color and more. Should this occur, then a charge of discrimination can be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In most cases, these claims must be filed quickly, as there are usually very strict time limits in place.

As you can see, at-will employment may be the most common form of employment, but wrongful termination can still apply. It can be difficult to prove that it occurred in some instances, but that is when the assistance of an experienced West Virginia employment lawyer can be of great benefit.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is Wrongful Termination?," accessed Sep. 09, 2016

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