Workers in North Carolina may feel alarmed when they discover that the state allows for “at-will” employment. In other words, unless there is a legal contract between the employee and the employer, the employer can:
- Change the employee’s position
- Alter the employee’s salary
- Terminate the employee
- Reduce your vacation time
- Utilize the employee as they deem fit
Additionally, all of these things can be done if the employer chooses to do so. However, you should also understand that this employment arrangement is extremely common. With the exception of people working in Montana, your employment status is presumed to be at will unless otherwise specified.
You Still Have Rights
The element of the at-will employment relationship is that people may feel they lack control. For example, can an at-will employee be fired for absolutely no reason at all? Yes, but there are exceptions. Your employer cannot terminate you if their reason for doing so is illegal.
That is a very important distinction. Imagine a person who is being sexually harassed in the workplace. They have every right to report the issue through the appropriate channels and escalate the matter as required without having to fear retribution. In other words, this person cannot be terminated because they made a claim against an employee or employer.
If your employer asks that you do something illegal, you do not have to comply—and you cannot be fired for your refusal. For instance, if you work in a lab and your employer asks you to adjust the results because it is in the employer’s interest, you can refuse.
Document, Document, Document
Pretend that you tell your boss that you are unwilling to manipulate or falsify the lab data. Your employer may accept your refusal. What happens if you are terminated two weeks later simply because of your at-will employment relationship? This is a scenario in which you should strongly consider contacting an employment law attorney. Your employer may deny that your termination had anything to do with how you handled their request to alter data.
The key to resolving this complicated matter is to document everything. Write down:
- What you refused to do
- Why you did so
- When it happened
- Where it happened
- The witnesses who saw this happen
Allow your attorney to make the argument that you were terminated illegally.
The Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor
At The Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we take a firm stance against workers being mistreated or exploited. If you feel that you can’t fight back, contact our team of employment law attorneys to learn how much power you have. Schedule your free consultation today.