Employment Law FAQ

  1. Does an employer need a reason to terminate an individual's employment? No. As long as the reason is not an illegal reason (protected by statute or common law), the employer does not need a good reason, or any reason, to end an individual's employment. If an employer does not have cause to terminate employment, does the employee have any recourse? Possibly. If the employer does not have cause to terminate employment, the individual may be able to get unemployment benefits. This does not automatically mean that the employee has an action based upon the termination itself. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice quickly to determine if further action should be taken.
  2. What is an "at-will employee"? An at-will employee does not have guaranteed employment for any specified period of time. The employee or the employer may end the employment relationship at any time. No notice is required by either side to end the employment relationship.
  3. Can an employer fire an at-will employee for any reason? No. The employer does not have to have cause to terminate the employee, but if the reason is an illegal reason protected by statute or common law, the employee may have legal recourse.
  4. What are the forms of illegal discrimination? An employer may not discriminate based upon an individual's race, color, sex, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age (forty and older) or pregnancy status under federal law. Additionally, under state law, the employer cannot discriminate against an individual because he or she has exercised rights under the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. There are also some limited forms of whistleblower protection.
  5. If an employee has never received any negative reviews or employee discipline, does this prevent the employer from terminating employment? No. An employer does not need any reason to terminate employment. Past performance is not an indicator of current or future performance. However, an employee's past performance may be probative of illegal conduct by the employer.