What does it mean that employment is generally "at will"?
"At will" means that, usually, either the employer or employee is free to end the employment relationship. In other words, the employee is free to quit and the employer is free to fire the employee.
What limits are there on an employer's ability to fire an employee?
There are not many limits, but there are a few important ones. An employer may not unlawfully discriminate. Nor may an employer violate an employment agreement (such as a collective bargaining agreement).
What does it mean to unlawfully discriminate?
First, understand that the only kinds of discrimination that are unlawful are those that are prohibited by law. As I often say, "You can be fired for the color of your tie, but not for the color of your skin." But remember: Just because an employer treats an employee unfairly does not by itself transform the situation into unlawful discrimination. All unlawful discrimination involves unfairness, but not all unfairness involves unlawful discrimination.
What kind of discrimination is unlawful?
Discrimination based on such factors as gender, age, race, national origin, skin color, disability, and religion are unlawful under both federal and state law. Certain kinds of discrimination are unlawful only under state law, such as discrimination based upon criminal conviction.
What other employer conduct is unlawful?
Violating an employment agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement, is unlawful. Written employment agreements other than collective bargaining agreements are quite rare. Also prohibited by law is harassment based upon one of the categories of discrimination, as well as retaliation based upon opposing unlawful employment practices.