Armstrong & Associates Employment Law Firm

When may employers discharge at-will employees?

Texas law allows companies to hire workers without requiring them to sign employment contracts. If a job classifies as an “employment-at-will” position, either an employer or an employee may terminate the relationship without cause or advance notice. Unless conducted unlawfully, a firing may not lead to a wrongful termination claim.

As the Texas Workforce Commission website outlines, employers have leeway to update the terms of their employment-at-will relationships. Workplace policies could change without notice. Supervisors may modify their employees’ schedules, titles or responsibilities as they wish. Certain circumstances, however, could lead to a wrongful termination claim.

Some reasons at-will employees may file wrongful termination claims

The TWC notes exceptions to the employment-at-will laws. The circumstances noted could lead to wrongful termination claims. An exception known as “public policy” forbids firing employees who refuse to perform a criminal act when requested to do so. Another exception involves violations of federal or Texas discrimination laws. A dismissal in retaliation for whistleblower activities could also bring a wrongful termination claim.

Documentation may outline the terms of an employment-at-will position

A company may create an employment policy document and ask new hires to review it. Documentation generally helps employees better understand the terms and expectations of at-will employment. The Society of Human Resource Management notes that companies may also ask employees to sign a statement verifying their understanding.

An at-will position could end at any time provided the employer does not violate any federal or local statutes. Signing a policy statement helps confirm an employee understood the employment terms. A signed statement of understanding may help prevent a future wrongful termination claim.


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