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Can You Be Fired Over a Personality Conflict? What You Need to Know About At-Will Employment

July 7, 2016 Employment Agreements

How at-will employment can be used to disguise discrimination

Can you be fired simply because your boss doesn’t like you?

While the concept may seem unfair, it’s not necessarily unlawful. Many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, are at-will employment states.

That means that unless a narrow category of exceptions applies, employers generally have the right to terminate employees at any time, for any reason – or even for no reason at all.

Similarly, that also means that employees generally have the right to resign at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, with or without notice.

However, it’s important to know that some employers may use the at-will doctrine to terminate employees for discriminatory reasons. Let’s take a look at who is and isn’t an at-will employee, and how some unscrupulous employers may attempt to misconstrue the concept to get away with unlawful behavior.

At-Will Doesn’t Apply to Everyone

There are some important exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, including:

  • Employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. These workers are usually protected by special clauses that spell out permissible reasons and procedures for termination.
  • Civil service workers. They may be covered by provisions that require “just cause” (usually a valid disciplinary or business reason) for termination.
  • People who have signed employment contracts. They are typically bound by the terms and conditions of that contract.

When Employers Hide Behind At-Will Employment

As we stated earlier, at-will employment isn’t a license for an employer to violate the law.

However, some employers may attempt to use at-will employment to justify a wrongful termination that was really motivated by other factors, including:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • A request for family or medical leave
  • Filing a claim for workers’ compensation
  • Complaints about unpaid wages or reports of unlawful conduct
  • Pregnancy
  • Complaints about unlawful treatment in the workplace
  • Complaints about unlawful pay practices
  • Discussing terms and conditions of your employment with co-workers

Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation

If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated for any of the reasons above, it’s best to seek legal advice right away.

Email us at, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.