The laws that protect you as a job seeker or employer apply whether you work in an “at will” state or not. Many employers tell applicants or employees that they can’t fight back against wrongful treatment because “It’s an at-will state.”
Whether you work in an at-will state or not has nothing to do with whether you have legal rights under the fifty-plus laws that protect applicants, employees and former employees. “At will” employment generally means the employer does not have to give you a reason and that you do not have a guaranteed right to the job.
It does not mean you don’t have the power to fight discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other unfair practices. The term “at will” has nothing to do with your rights against illegal employer conduct. You have protection against discrimination and other forms of unlawful treatment from the moment you turn in a job application. And those protections stay with you even after you’ve left a job. To give just one example, if a former employer gives you a bad reference to a prospective employer because you previously blew the whistle on the job, you can file suit against the former employer for retaliation. That’s just one example to show how the laws protect you for years after you’ve left a job. There are many others.
So if you believe the actions of a potential employer, current employer or former employer are unfair or illegal, don’t let the words “at will” scare you off. In such situations, those words don’t mean anything and do not prevent you from enforcing your rights.
Jim Garrity, Esq. When You Need a Lawyer To Fight Your Employer®