Dictionary of Legal Terms

Employment At Will

The doctrine that an employee serves at the will of the employer, and that the employer is free to terminate the employee at any time, for no reason or for any lawful reason. (At the same time, an at-will employee is free to quit at any time, for any reason or no reason, with or without notice.) The employer has no duty to treat employees fairly, only lawfully. An employment contract, whether written or merely implied, can restrict the employer's freedom to discharge an employee. Also, for reasons of public policy, employers may not terminate an employee on the basis of race, national origin, gender, religion, disability or age. Nor can an employer fire an employee in retaliation after the employee has exercised his or her legal right to, say, file a workers' compensation claim or whistle-blowing. An employee's exercise of such legal rights is protected conduct. Further, an employer may not terminate an employee for serving on a jury or for refusing to break the law. See contract, whistle-blower.

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This dictionary was developed by the Ohio State Bar Association with funding from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. The information contained in this dictionary is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting your own attorney.

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