Are you an at-will employee?

Like many people in Phoenix, you likely feel secure in your employment due to the performance that you give at work. That is why the sudden news of your firing is typically so shocking. Upon receiving such news, you likely ask for a reason, only to experience even further shock when you hear that your employer is not required to give you one. 

You probably assume that your employer has to have a reason to fire you. However, employers are actually free to fire employees at their discretion (to a certain extent) thanks to the legal doctrine of at-will employment. 

What is employment at will? 

Many states (Arizona included) follow the at-will employment doctrine, which essentially says that you work at your employer’s pleasure. Indeed, Section 23-1501 of Arizona’s Revised Statutes says the following in this regard: “The employment relationship is severable at the pleasure of either the employee or the employer.” While your immediate thoughts may be that this only seems slanted towards your employer, you will notice that it also provides you (as an employee) with certain protections. This is actually what allows you to leave a company at your leisure (without needing to give a good reason). 

Exceptions to at-will employment 

There are, however, certain exceptions to at-will employment. The very same statute goes on to say that at-will severability does not apply if you have a documented employment contract or some other express agreement is in place restricting your employer’s right to fire you. There are also general exceptions. These include cases of discrimination or retaliation. Your employer is also not allowed to fire you for no good reason if doing so is in violation of public policy (e.g. firing you for filing a workers’ compensation claim following a workplace injury).