Terminate an At-Will Employee for Misconduct

  • The employment at-will doctrine, accepted by nearly all fifty (50) states, enables both employers and employees to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, so long as the motivation for termination does not violate other aspects of federal, state and local law. There are many exceptions to the doctrine, however, based on federal, state and local laws.
  • Employees who commit misconduct in the workplace or otherwise fail to perform should be disciplined gradually and with due diligence. Hasty, harsh or unreasonable termination of employment may expose the employer to costly disputes with employees while also negatively affecting the morale of remaining employees.
  • When employment disputes arise, employers will typically have the burden of demonstrating to a "fact finder" (judge, jury or mediator) that it terminated the employee in question for good reason, notwithstanding the employment at-will doctrine. An employer can justify its decision to terminate an employee with a thoroughly documented employee personnel file.