Legal Review: Employment at Will — All You Need to Know

Employment at will is a legal agreement that allows employers to fire employees without warning, reason, or explanation. Similarly, this working arrangement makes it possible for an employee to leave a job without cause or notice if they choose.

While at-will employment gives employees little or no protection if they get fired for discriminatory reasons, it has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Is At-Will Employment a Blank Check to be Fired?

At-will-employment may sound like a blank check for employers to fire employees without any reason. Since this type of employment arrangement does not include requirements like notice or severance pay, it is easy to assume employers have excess power over their employees, meaning they can dismiss them without cause. However, that is not always the case.

Some states have laws that make “at-will” agreements unenforceable to protect employees. For example, California’s Wrongful Termination Act prohibits employers with five or more workers from dismissing employees without good cause. That means employees whose employment has been terminated for unlawful reasons may qualify for compensation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Legal Protections of At-will Employees

Whether or not an employee is working under the at-will employment agreement, their rights are protected by state and federal workers’ compensation laws. “Wrongful termination includes termination based on: sex, race, age, religion, national origin and/or disability. Current US law also doesn’t allow employees to be fired for retaliation or outward disagreement with illegal business practices (whistleblowers),” says Georgia Business Lawyer, Jonathan Sparks.

In addition to this protection, employees also have certain rights granted by the government, such as a minimum wage requirement, equal pay, and overtime pay. The Equal Pay Act also protects both men and women who perform similar work but receive different compensation by requiring gender equality between wages paid to male and female employees.

An employer may also not retaliate against an employee for exercising these rights or participating in other protected activities. These include filing complaints about illegal employment practices with regulatory agencies like OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) or NLRB (National Labor Relations Board).

How to Prepare for Employment-At-Will Agreement Before Signing It

To protect yourself from discriminatory employment termination, you need to make it clear in your employment contract. For example, you can include a statement saying that the employer has no right to terminate your employment except for cause or outlined in the document. Additionally, have your contract include a clear notice about how long this period lasts — typically one year. If you meet these requirements, an employer may not terminate your employment without reason, even if you signed the at-will employment agreement.


Just because at-will employment allows you to quit without notice, it is generally best to provide one or two weeks’ notice when you decide to leave. This helps protect your reputation with future employers. At the same time, you need to always prepare for the worst as you may never know when your employer might fire you when working under this working arrangement.

Recent Stories

The Georgia-based pizza restaurant Mellow Mushroom will open a location in Vienna (courtesy Shannon Curl/Mellow Mushroom) Mellow Mushroom is officially coming to the Town of Vienna. The Atlanta, Georgia-based pizza…

Bicycles parked outside the Greensboro Metro station entrance in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey) Fairfax County hopes to increase the availability of bicycle parking spaces by establishing a tiered…

This Saturday, December 3 Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long returns to the Filene Center after two years of virtual performances! Guests are invited to take part in this free tradition that…

The Boro in Tysons will kick off its winter holiday festivities this Saturday (courtesy The Boro) Officially, winter won’t come for another three weeks, but as far as the Tysons…

Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many. He embodies grace, positivity and motivation in ways that no one else can. If we could all learn a thing or two from him, the world would be a much better place. He does so much for others, and does so with a smile on his face 99% of the time.

He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy. CG is no longer able to work and do what he loves for the time being because of this and we’d love your support.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

The Rhea Baker State Farm Agency is proud to support Shelter House in providing safe places to be during quarantine. Shelter House’s mission is to prevent and end homelessness and domestic violence. Right now they are providing over 200 hotel rooms to those in need in our community. In the past year, across all programs, Shelter House served nearly 500 households comprised of over 1,500 individuals, 60% of which were children.

Of the households that exited shelter, over 70% moved to permanent housing. The Baker Agency has served Vienna and Tysons residents and business owners since 2007 and proudly offers insurance solutions for you home, condo, auto insurance, life insurance and more. We offer complimentary reviews and coach teen drivers to safer, better drivers, and to help keep your auto insurance rates down! We are always happy to talk or text at 703-847-6880.

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.


Subscribe to our mailing list