At-will employment is an employment arrangement in which the employee may quit at any time, and the employer may fire the employee for any reason and at any point, so long as the dismissal isn’t for an unlawful reason. For example, an employer may fire an at-will employee for poor performance, to cut costs, or because the employer doesn’t like the employee, but may not fire an at-will employee for discriminatory reasons, such as their race, religion, sex, to retaliate against the employee for reporting harassment, or because the employee exercised a legal right.
In 49 U.S. states, employment is presumed to be at-will if there is no express or implied employment agreement to state otherwise. The only exception is Montana, which generally requires employers to have good cause for dismissing an employee who has passed the probationary period.
Employers may require their employees to sign an employment agreement that contains a provision expressly stating the employee is an at-will employee.
[Last updated in May of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]