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What protections do at-will employees have in the workplace?

Many times when people in Chicago are hired for a new job there are expectations that they will be able to work at the company until they are ready to leave. Not everyone has the choice to leave when they want though. Employers may need to fire or lay off employees for a variety of reasons. This could be because of a downturn in the overall economy or a downturn in the particular type of industry the company is in. They also may be fired because the employer does not believe that the employee is performing their job adequately.

The employee may not think the reason for their firing is fair and that the employer made a mistake, but that does not make the firing illegal in many instances. Most employees in Illinois are considered at-will employees. This means that just as employees can quit their job at any time, the employer can fire the employee at any time for almost any reason. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.

Wrongful Termination claims for at-will employees

Even at-will employees cannot be discriminated against. The discrimination must be based on the employee being in a protected class though. This means that employers cannot fire employees based on their race, religion, nationality, age, disability, gender or other protected classes. Also, employers cannot retaliate against an employee for whistleblowing or participating in an investigation into discrimination or harassment at the workplace. They also cannot fire an employee for refusing to participate in an illegal activity. If employers fire at-will employees for these reasons the employee may have a wrongful termination claim.

At-will employees make up much of the workforce in Chicago and this means that both the employee and the employer have a lot of freedom to make employment decisions with little consequences. However, even at-will employees have protections against a wrongful termination. If at-will employees are wrongfully terminated, they may be entitled to compensation for back pay and other damages they suffer. These can be complicated cases though and consulting with experienced attorneys could be beneficial.

 

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