Must An Employer Give Employees A Written Contract?
No. Most contracts are verbal. Furthermore, most employees are “at will.”
What Is At-Will Employment?
Absent special protections, employees are generally presumed to be at-will employees. Unless there are specific provisions in a written employment contract or employee policy handbook, employment may usually be terminated without notice, at any time, and without cause (i.e. for any reason or for no reason) by either the employee or the employer, as long as the reason is not illegal and does not violate public policy.
If I Am Fired, Can I Sue My Employer?
Generally, no; however, a few exceptions exist:
- An employer cannot fire or discriminate against someone (a job applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. See generally 42 U.S.C. A7A7 2000e-2 et seq.; 29 U.S.C. A7A7623 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. A7A7 12111 et seq. In addition, law prohibits employers from discriminating against a person with a disability by interfering with that person’s use of a service animal (for example, a guide, hearing, or helping dog) at their job. However, these laws only cover employers with 15 or more employees.
- An employer cannot retaliate against a job applicant or employee for opposing any discriminatory employment practice, filing an employment discrimination charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in an investigation or proceeding alleging employment discrimination. U.S.C. A7 2000e-3(a).
- An employer cannot fire an employee if the employee’s dismissal violates public policy. This typically occurs if an employer fires an employee for (1) refusing to violate the law and reporting the illegal conduct to the proper law enforcement authorities (not a supervisor); (2) refusing to work under conditions unreasonably dangerous to the employee; (3) accepting jury duty; or (4) filing a workers compensation claim.
If I Believe My Employer Has Sexually Harassed Me, Can I Sue?
Yes. The laws forbidding employment discrimination protect both men and women against sexual harassment (men or women can sue their employer if they have been sexually harassed by other men or women). Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).
Whom Should I Contact If I Think I Have Been Discriminated Against?
Immediately contact the Equal Rights Commission.