Are you an at-will employer?

The process of hiring and firing comes with a lot of nuances depending on your state, your type of business and even the way you word your employee handbook. It might seem impossible to navigate.

The short answer is yes: most employers are at-will because most states default as an at-will to work state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the United States is one of a handful of countries that is predominantly at-will. At-will states allow employers to terminate their employees for any or no reason — most of the time.

Exceptions to at-will termination

One of the few exceptions to this at-will allowance is that you may not fire your employees for unlawful reasons. These include discriminations against

  • Race
  • Sexual identity
  • Age
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • And more facets of a person

Other unlawful situations include taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or whistleblowing Arizona statutes or regulations. This is not a comprehensive list of all the unlawful ways to fire an employee, but these are common examples.

Exceptions via contract

Arizona assumes employment is at will unless you provide an employment contract that states otherwise. You might offer an agreement like this in order to provide job security as an incentive to long-standing workers. Depending on the wording of the contract, you might limit your ability to terminate an employee.

Employee handbooks may open up a legal loophole for this unless formally stated that it is not a contract in its language.

The basic definition of at-will employment makes it seem easy, but it is best to learn the hidden complexities. Leaning on your resources and analyzing your business language is a good way to confirm or alter your at-will employer status.