Understanding Employment at will

When it comes to hiring and firing it is important to consider that, the law recognizes two types of employees: contract employees and at will employees. “At-will” employees can be fired at any time and for any reason (with the exception of discrimination). A contract employee, on the other hand, may only be fired “for cause” under the terms of the employment contact.

In the current workforce a vast majority of employees are considered “at will.” “At will” employment means that an employee’s job is not governed by a contract outlining how and when they can be terminated from their job. Without these guidelines, an “at will” employee can be fired for any reason as long as it does not violate public policy.

Tennessee law recognizes four main examples of termination in violation of public policy:

  • Refusing to violate the law:
  • Performing a legal obligation:
  • Exercising a legal or constitutional right.
  • Reporting a violation of the law

In addition to these reasons a termination based on discrimination against a “protected class” of citizens such as: race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, physical and mental disability, age, and religion is also treated a wrongful.

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