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Employee At Will May Be Fired At Will

(credit: Tom Grill/Getty Images)

(credit: Tom Grill/Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Let’s go over this again: what does the law say about when you can be fired?

A laundry room attendant in Illinois was fired from his job with the Renaissance Hotel chain. The ex-employee did not dispute that he was late to work on numerous occasions, or that he’d been issued three written warnings, or that he was suspended and fired only after the third written warning. Despite that, he was apparently caught off guard by his termination and sued for retaliation.

Which goes to prove an important legal lesson (and it isn’t everybody is a stupid moron, although…):

Unless you have an employment contract for a set term or are party to a collective bargaining agreement, you are what’s known as an employee at will. That means that you can be terminated at any time for any reason – just not a discriminatory reason. And pointing out the actual shortfalls in your performance is not discriminatory.

So when you get your first warning, talk to the supervisor about how to correct the problem and make an earnest effort to do so. If you think that the supervisor is setting up a paper trail in anticipation of your termination and that your days at the company are limited, start networking and letting friends know you may be looking before the ax falls so that you don’t get caught by what should not come as a surprise.