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Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

Are There Exceptions to At-Will Employment Laws?

By Dan Atkerson on May 27, 2015

Texas is an “at-will” employment state. This means that both employee and employer are free to terminate their relationship to one another at any time, no strings attached, for any or no reason at all.

But this rule is not ironclad, and there are quite a few exceptions. Most are created by statute, but the courts have also had to step in occasionally to create exceptions.

The List of At-Will Exceptions

  • Employees cannot be terminated for refusal to commit an illegal act.
  • Employees cannot be discharged for being in a union, acting under collective bargaining agreements or engaging in union-related concerted actions.
  • Employees cannot be terminated because of their membership in a protected class (race, sex, pregnancy, disabilities, age, etc.)
  • Employees cannot be terminated for refusal to submit to a polygraph test.
  • Employees cannot be discharged without required notice, as in cases with mass layoffs. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) dictates that employers must provide a 60 calendar-day advance notice of layoffs and closings for companies with 100 or more employees.
  • Employees cannot be fired in retaliation for complaints of discrimination or coming to the aid of another person’s complaint. Additionally, you cannot be fired in retaliation for taking medical leave, military leave, responding to a subpoena, jury duty, filing for workers’ comp, or refusing to join a union.
  • Employees cannot be fired for filing health and safety complaints.
  • Employees cannot be fired for making wage claims.
As you can see, the status of Texas as an at-will state does not give your employer carte blanche to fire workers. If you have been wrongfully terminated and believe that the action violated an exception to the at-will doctrine, do not hesitate to contact an employment law attorney.

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