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What constitutes wrongful termination in an at-will state?

Idaho is an at-will employment state. Statutes in Idaho allow workers to leave a job at any time without facing legal consequences for doing so. Employers can similarly terminate workers with little notice and for many different reasons. In fact, at-will employment allows a business to terminate a worker without any specific reason at all. Employees sometimes assume that they have no protection from termination in at-will employment states. However, companies could still violate the law by wrongfully terminating workers.

Wrongful terminations could involve a targeted firing of a specific individual or mass layoffs. When specific circumstances unfold, it is possible to have an unlawful termination scenario in an at-will state.

Terminations as a form of retaliation

Employers can fire workers for no reason or any legal reason. However, they cannot fire workers as punishment for engaging in protected workplace activities. For example, workers have the right to organize with one another, which might involve talking about unionizing or discussing their wages. They have a right to a safe work environment, which might include requesting training or safety equipment from a business or reporting violations of safety standards.

Additionally, workers should not have to endure harassment or discrimination in the workplace. Those who speak up about misconduct should not have to worry about the company firing them or doing so. A termination or layoff that occurs shortly after someone engages in protected activities could constitute retaliation. Retaliatory firings and layoffs are potentially wrongful terminations.

Terminations as a form of discrimination

Sometimes, the culture of a company creates a glass ceiling for workers with certain characteristics. They may be unable to advance beyond a certain point despite their ambition because of their religion, race, sex, age or other protected characteristic. They may also be at risk of losing their job suddenly because their employer targets workers with certain characteristics. If a company fires only the workers belonging to a certain group, that could constitute wrongful termination. So could layoffs that disproportionately impact those with a specific protected characteristic.

Workers who believe that a termination was wrongful may be able to take legal action that could lead to financial compensation or resumption of employment in some cases. Discussing the circumstances of someone’s firing with an attorney can help people evaluate whether a termination was wrongful and, therefore, potentially actionable.