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What is an at-will employee?

You may share the same line of thinking as many in Minneapolis in that you cannot be fired by your employer without good cause. Yet is this true? Unless you or a family member or friend has had to deal with a firing before, then you are likely unfamiliar with the term "at-will employee." What does this mean, and could you be one without knowing it?

An at-will employee is one that can be fired at any time for any reason. The state's Department of Labor and Industry website shows that Minnesota is indeed an at-will state. So yes, in most cases, you are considered to be an at-will employee. However it should be understood that you simply working in an at-will state does not always give your employer impunity if it decides to fire you on a whim.

For example, your employer cannot fire you solely based off of factors such as:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Relationship status or sexual orientation
  • Creed or religious beliefs
  • Origin or ancestry
  • Age or disability

What this means is that cases such as you asking for time off to celebrate a religious holiday, you openly speaking about your personal relationships at work, or you continuing to work past the perceived age of retirement may not be cited as the reasons for your termination.

There are instances beyond cases of discrimination where your employer may not fire you for any reason. If you are involved in a contractual relationship (even one that is only implied), the decision to dismiss you may be viewed as breach of contract. Your employer also cannot fire you in retaliation for reporting a workplace issue, or for failing to complete a requested task that could be considered to be illegal.

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