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Can you fire employees for any reason?

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2024 | Employment Issues

As a business owner, you may be wondering when you can fire employees. Clearly, you can do so if they are unable to adequately perform the duties of their job or if they’re in violation of the work agreement – such as skipping shifts, clocking in at the wrong times, refusing to follow company policies and things of this nature.

But can you actually fire your employees for any reason? What if an employee comes to work wearing an outfit that just doesn’t fit the vibe of the office? What if someone is good at their job but very difficult for other employees to work with? What if you’re just trying to cut costs and the only way to do it is to let someone go? Are you allowed to terminate employees even without cause?

At-will employment laws

As a general rule, yes, you can fire employees for almost any reason. Around the world, many modern countries use laws that mandate that businesses only fire employees for cause or for a good reason. But the United States does not give at-will employees – those without employment contracts – this type of protection, so you could fire someone simply over a minor issue or for no reason at all.

What you need to avoid, however, is firing an employee for an illegal reason. Examples of this include firing them based on their race, age, gender, religious background, national origin or another protected class. You can’t discriminate on these grounds when choosing who to fire. But as long as your reason isn’t illegal, you don’t necessarily need to show cause just to end the working relationship.

Unfortunately, this can lead to disputes in some cases. If you find yourself in this position, be sure you understand your legal options.