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Can At-Will Employees Be Wrongfully Terminated?

Can At-Will Employees Be Wrongfully Terminated?

You may be surprised to learn that an employee can still be wrongfully terminated even in an at-will state like Michigan. In this blog post, we will explore the nuances of at-will employment laws and discuss the situations in which an at-will employee can be wrongfully terminated.

What Is At-Will Employment?

At-will employment is a doctrine that is recognized in most states, including Michigan. It means that either the employer or the employee has the right to end the employment relationship without prior notice or cause. While this may sound quite harsh, the courts recognize that it is in the best interests of both employers and employees to have the flexibility of this rule.

What Are the Exceptions to At-Will Employment?

At-will employment can significantly benefit employees, allowing them to leave their job at any time without cause. However, employers also cannot terminate an employee for reasons deemed illegal under state and federal laws.

Under Michigan law, employers are prohibited from terminating an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (over 40), or disability. This includes discrimination based on pregnancy and family medical history. Additionally, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report illegal activities or participate in protected activities, such as union organizing or whistle-blowing.

Finally, employers cannot terminate employees if doing so violates an oral or written contract or collective bargaining agreement. If an employee has a good case that their employer broke a contract by firing them, they may be able to sue their employer.

What Are Some Examples of Wrongful Termination?

Under state and federal law, there are certain circumstances in which an employer cannot legally terminate an employee. For example, even though Michigan is an at-will employment state, employers cannot fire employees for reasons that are deemed illegal by the law. Some examples of wrongful termination include:

  • Discrimination: It is against the law to fire an employee because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.
  • Retaliation: An employer can’t fire someone for telling the police about a crime or using a legal right.
  • Breach of Contract: If an employee has an employment contract, the employer must honor its terms and conditions. Firing someone in violation of such a contract could constitute wrongful termination.
  • Public Policy Violation:
    Terminating someone for reasons that go against public policy is illegal. For example, if an employee refuses to commit an illegal or unethical act, an employer cannot fire them for doing so.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated in violation of your legal rights, you must speak with an experienced employment attorney who can review the facts of your case and help determine whether you have a claim for wrongful termination.

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