Are there any exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine?

Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor

There are many exceptions to the doctrine, most of which are grounded in state law. Employers should familiarize themselves with the state laws in which their offices are located, particularly regarding the exceptions to employment at-will. Common exceptions include: express or implied employment contracts, judicially recognized public policy prohibiting discharge and an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Once employers have familiarized themselves with the individual state exceptions to the doctrine, they must also ensure that the termination in question does not violate federal law by discriminating against a protected class of workers or retaliating against a worker for engaging in legally protected activity.