At–Will Employment Law and Legal Definition

At-Will Employment doctrine presumes employment to be voluntary and indefinite for both employees and employers. The employees may generally quit their jobs at anytime and for any, no or even unfair reasons. Similarly the employers may generally fire or layoff employees at anytime and for any or no reasons. In short, either party can break the relationship at their option without any liability at any time, provided there is no express contract for a definite term governing the employment relationship and that the employer does not belong to a collective bargain such as a recognized union.

However, there are legal restrictions upon the employer's ability to terminate an employee without any reason. The At-Will Employment doctrine varies from state to state. Those states which are more protective of employees than others have established "exceptions" to the At-Will doctrine. Even when there is no formal contract courts will "imply" a contract between the employer and employee. This notion of an implied contract protects employees from discharge or demotion without cause.

Apart from this there is also an enormous body of federal and state law limiting an employer's ability to terminate employees for reasons having to do with race, ethnicity, religion, marital or disability status and, in some cases, sexual orientation. Complaints about violations of employee rights, union activities, workers' compensation filings, reports of health or safety violations, and several other categories of employee activities cannot be the basis of a termination decision.

In short, an employer cannot fire employees in any way that constitutes discrimination, a violation of state public policy, or contradicts any actual or implied promise regarding the criteria or procedures for employee termination.

At –Will Employment is also termed as Employment At-Will and Hiring At-Will.