t is of indefinite duration, the employer can terminate the employee for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.” However, even the ‘at will’ employees are entitled to a number of legal protections against unlawful discrimination with regard to the termination of an employee. These are known as exceptions of the at-will employment.
While discussing the exceptions of at-will employment recognized by the United States, there are three major types of exceptions commonly found in the states. First of all, there are public policy exceptions to employment at will through which the termination of an employee is considered wrongful if it violates the well-established public policies of the state. For instance, an employer cannot terminate an employee if the latter refuses to break the law at the request of the employer. Public policy exceptions are the most widely exceptions that are recognized in most of the states in the US.
Then there are implied contract exceptions where the employer cannot terminate the employee if an implied contract is formed between the two even without a written instrument. In case the employer terminates an employee in violation of an implied employment contract, then possibilities are that the employer will be found liable for breach of contract. It is important to note that implied employment contracts can be created by the employer’s oral or written assurances regarding job tenure or disciplinary procedures. However, it is often found that the fired employee has to bear the burden of proof.
The third type of exceptions are the covenant of good faith and fair dealing exceptions. Under this exception, an employer cannot terminate the employee in bad faith or motivated by any personal hatred. Courts that recognize such exceptions are found to have recognized two types of contracts - a) covenants implied in fact and b) covenants implied in law. For example, covenants implied in fact include repeated promotions and pay increases