The difference between “fire at-will” and “firing at-will”

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Most people that work here in Utah know that this state is known for its at-will status. At-will means that both parties, the employer and employee can break the employment agreement at anytime they want. When an employer hires an employee, they make an offer to that person to work for them in exchange for a dollar amount, usually an hourly wage.

Employers also usually have employee handbooks that outline the agreement between the parties which usually state that the employee is at-will. So when someone gets fired from their job after getting humiliated and insulted in front of their fellow employees they think that they are out of luck because they were hired at-will. There isn’t a lot of law out there that keeps individuals from being a bully and most attorneys say that if that happens and you weren’t discriminated against based on sex, age, race or religion, you are out of luck.

That isn’t necessarily true. Utah, in all of their contracts have a law that is implied in all contracts called good faith and fair dealing. This means that both of the parties agree that they will deal with the other party in honesty, fairly and in good faith so as not to destroy the right of the other party or parties to receive the benefit of the contract. A lot of times, employers think at-will is connected to an old saying in military and navy, “fire at-will” meaning anyone can be terminated anytime anywhere for any reason. If I don’t like what they said to me or I don’t like what they wear or their voice or their hair, I can fire them.

Under good faith and fair dealing, that is not true at all. There must be an honest good-faith reason to terminate someone. The employee has contracted to perform a certain kind of work for the employee. If the employer can’t pinpoint an issue with the contract on job performance and instead terminates for another reason, then it could be a breach of the implied warranty of good faith and fair dealing.

The remedies would be what you would have received if the employer should have performed on the contract instead of breaching the contract which could be lost wages and benefits and if you have a lower-paying job, lost wages for the job you should have had. If it was also a situation where there was lots of swearing and name calling, there could be an issue with other causes of action as well. Read this post to learn more about other causes of action. In light of that, if you think that you were terminated for reasons other than just job performance, it may be good to contact an attorney to lay out your options for you.

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