Termination, while often unpleasant, is simply a necessary part of the employment relationship. Once an employment relationship no longer effectively serves the needs and interests of both the employer and employee, then it may simply be time for that relationship to end.
Fortunately for employers and employees alike, employment is generally considered at will, which means that either the employee or the employer may terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason—any legal reason, that is. Employment at will can end because “it’s just not working out” or even for no reason at all.
Of course, as with nearly all legal principles, there are limits to the employment-at-will principle. For example, if an employment relationship is established and protected by contract, such as a collective bargaining agreement in a unionized workplace, this agreement limits the parties’ rights to unilaterally terminate employment. Contracts change the nature of the employment relationship such that it is no longer considered to be at will.
Additionally, note that termination can be for any legal reason. Numerous state and federal laws, several discussed below, supersede and limit an employer’s otherwise absolute right to terminate employment—for example, when the reason for termination is based on a protected class, status, or activity.
Finally, note that public employers and employers in the state of Montana generally do not have the at-will principle at hand, so these employers may have to follow specified discharge procedures.
In addition to the laws governing why termination may occur, employers may also be required to abide by specific practices regarding how termination can ...