An at-will employee may have his/her employment terminated at any moment for any legal reason. For the most part, if an employer decides to terminate you, you may be left with limited legal rights to overturn your job termination. As such, many prospective and newly hired employees are often surprised when reading in a job application, employment contract, or employee handbook that their employment will be "at will."
At-Will Employment States
In the United States, all states are formally recognized as at-will employment states. But, many states place limitations on at-will employment, which is in addition to the federal laws that apply to all states. The basic exceptions that several states make available concern an exception due to public policy, implied contracts, as well as a covenant of good faith.
The exception pertaining to public policy available in several states happens to be very similar to those federal requirements. Employees are free to pursue the exception at both the state and federal levels. The states of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Nebraska, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island are the only states that do not currently allow for the public policy exception.
The implied contract exception is applicable in states in which employers have required their employees sign at-will employment contracts but still include contractual language or a statement in an employee handbook that employees can only be terminated for good cause. The implied contract exception is currently broadly applied in the United States. The states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia are the only states that do not currently recognize the exemption.
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