Can my employer fire me, even if the reason is false or unfair?
Yes, in many situations. In general, private‐sector employment in North Carolina is “at will.” This means that an employer is free to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.
There are exceptions to the at‐will rule. The most common exceptions include:
- An employment contract that sets out the terms and conditions of employment and limits an employer’s
ability to fire the employee at will.
- A termination that violates federal and state employment statutes prohibiting discrimination or retaliation.
- A firing that violates a particular public policy.
Do I have an employment contract?
Many employees think that handbooks or policy manuals are contracts, but they rarely are. There are two major types of employment contracts: individual contracts and collective bargaining agreements or union contracts. Few employees have individual contracts because few have the leverage to require an employer to give one. Employees might join together in unions to obtain collective bargaining agreements, which are contracts that protect a group of employees. The union representing the group can enforce these contracts, and workers can file an individual grievance.