When a business owner tells an employee that they’re fired, it’s very natural for that employee to wonder why this has happened. Certainly, there are situations in which the employee may already know, but a lot of employees are going to ask for the reason on their way out the door.
If their boss refuses to give them a reason, the employee may tell them that that’s not fair or even that it’s a wrongful termination. They may think that they are owed at least a reason for the loss of their job, but are they? Does the owner of the company actually have to tell the employee why they’re being let go?
Does the employee have a contract?
The big question here is whether or not the employee has a contract that guarantees them that they will only be fired for cause and that they’ll be told the reason for that termination. If so, then the employer has to follow the regulations laid out in that contract or they have violated the employee’s rights.
However, if the employee does not have a contract, then they are an at-will employee. At-will employment laws state that employers can fire their workers at any time. Your employer doesn’t even have to have a reason, much less tell you what it is.
It is important to note that at-will laws don’t mean that illegal firings are now permissible. For instance, it’s illegal to fire a worker based on race, and this is still true even if that worker is an at-will employee. So illegal firings are possible, but the lack of a reason for that firing does not automatically make it illegal.
When employers and employees wind up in some sort of dispute that is this serious, both sides need to make sure they are well aware of their legal rights.