At-will employment generally means that an employee’s job can be terminated at any time for no reason. That said, employers are not allowed to fire someone for their gender, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or any other of a number of protected characteristics. Furthermore, a firing cannot violate an employment contract - express or implied - or a company’s firing guidelines as they are defined in any employment policy manuals or handbooks.
The Post-Standard (10/2/13) reports that a lawsuit has been filed against two New York state officials, following the firing of the state fair assistant director. The plaintiff, Karl Gustafson, alleges he was fired for using lewd comments and creating a hostile work environment, but argues that those accusations are false and damaging to his reputation. Gustafson says he was fired after only one month on the job, and although he was not given a reason for the firing, he learned of the reasons through an article in a local paper.
According to the same article, the plaintiff seeks back pay from the time of his firing.
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In addition to not being fired for discriminatory reasons, employees cannot be terminated as retaliation for being whistleblowers or for filing complaints about a company’s illegal practices or working conditions. Employees also cannot be fired for refusal to take part in illegal activities on the company’s part.