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How to Terminate an At-Will Employee for Misconduct

Author: Darrell R. VanDeusen, Kollman & Saucier, PA

The employment at-will doctrine, accepted by nearly all 50 states, provides that either party may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason. Despite the flexibility afforded by employment at-will, agencies, judges and juries in federal and state courts all expect employers to behave rationally and with a good explanation for their actions.

This document assists an employer with terminating an employee who is classified as at-will, meaning that there is no individual employment contract for the employee and the employer's behaviors have not modified the at-will relationship.

Note: the employment at-will doctrine generally does not apply in the unionized workplace, where just cause for discipline and discharge is typically incorporated into a collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, the employment at-will doctrine generally does not apply to public employment, where due process requirements exist that require an employee be provided with notice of a termination decision and the opportunity to be heard or appeal from an adverse employment action.