At-will employment is the law in Colorado and Wyoming. The law mandates that an employer can terminate your employment relationship at any time for any reason – or for no reason at all. Likewise, you may leave your job voluntarily at any time without giving your employer a reason. That sounds pretty straightforward, but what does it actually mean to you?
At-will laws works in favor of an employer if an employee fails to meet the expectations of his or her job description; if the employer is overstaffed and must reduce employee head count; or for any reason the employer needs fewer employees at a given time. A good example is when the demand for an employers’ products or services decreases and they need to cut their staffing costs. In this case, the business can let people go to keep their costs in line with their projected sales and profit expectations.
An employee can use the status of being at-will by terminating their employment because they have found a job that better suits them – maybe one that pays more or is more accommodating to their desired work schedule. Being at-will allows the employee to quit at any time and for any reason.
There are some exceptions to the at-will doctrine. Violations of those exceptions in Colorado and Wyoming may create legal recourse for an employee who feels they have been terminated unfairly.
An employee may not be discharged from his or her job based on reasons that are defined by law as discriminatory. Race, creed, color, gender, age, sexual orientation (in Colorado), national origin, and ancestry all constitute discrimination if used as the reason to terminate someone’s employment.
An employer may likewise not terminate an employee for reasons that violate public policy. Actions that are protected include serving jury duty, engaging in legal off-duty activity, filing a workers’ compensation claim, threatening or filing a lawsuit against their employer, refusing to commit perjury (or lie) on the employer’s behalf, and reporting an employer’s illegal activity – also known as whistleblowing.
If you have a written or implied contract with your employer outlining the terms of your employment agreement, the employer may not terminate you if they violate those terms. For example, many employers distribute an employee handbook to new hires outlining the terms by which they must abide to maintain employment in good standing. If the employer breaks the rules and it results in your job termination, you may have grounds for wrongful termination.
Finally, an employer may not, under most circumstances, under the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act terminate an employee based on the employee’s pregnancy.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, it is best to contact an attorney who knows the law and can help you decide whether or not your claim is valid. The Olson Law Firm has represented many clients who found themselves in situations like the ones described above. We are dedicated to representing our clients to ensure they receive the full benefits they are entitled to under the law. Contact us today to find out if you believe have a case against your current or former employer.