Upon employment, some employees seem to forget to read their employment contract or handbook. But it is in fact seriously important to read such documents after or even before one is employed by a company. More than the laws and policies, one's status as an employee may be indicated in these documents. There are employees who are lucky enough to be told about their employment status, while some are surprised to know upon reading the contract that they are actually employed at-will.
At will employment is a doctrine which states that an employment relationship may be broken with no liability as long as the contract does not point out the particular length of time that the person is employed by the company and if he does not belong to a collective bargain. It also means that he can be fired any time and for any reason, as long as it is legal. The employee has very limited legal rights to fight against his termination.
There is no good reason for the termination, although there are reasons that are considered unlawful. At-will employment happens in every state; though in Montana, employees who got through the initial probationary period cannot be fired without a cause.
Every employee is considered at-will under the law, unless the employee can prove otherwise. An employee may prove that he is or is not an employee at-will through written or oral statements from the employer. Written statements include written policies, application form, handbook, job evaluation, etc.
If the employee's signature is present on any of these documents, he then considers and agrees of being employed at-will. Employee manuals may also specify that the employees on the company are all at-will. Some employers give a list of reasons that may be grounds for termination. Workers may rely on this policy if ever.
The employer, during an interview or upon hiring a person, may tell the employee right away that he is employed at-will. He may say it straight, or imply it by saying that the company only terminates employees for a good reason, especially if he repeats it throughout the conversation.
Despite their power to do so, an employer may not fire an employee under some exemptions: Public policy, discrimination or retaliation, implied contract, and covenant-of-good-faith.