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Can You Be Fired Without Being Told Why in 2024?

In most states, employers are not legally required to provide a reason for firing an employee unless there is an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that specifies otherwise. Most states are “at-will” employment states, which means that employers can generally terminate employees for any reason that is not illegal or discriminatory.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What is “At-Will” Employment?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, employment relationships in the U.S. are generally presumed to be “at-will,” meaning that an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason that is not illegal [1].

This is different from many other countries where employers can only dismiss employees for specific reasons. The at-will presumption is based on principles such as freedom of contract and the belief that both employers and employees prefer flexibility over job security.

At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences – Agency Stated.

While the at-will rule provides flexibility, it can leave employees vulnerable to sudden dismissal or changes in their work conditions.

Can an Employer Disclose That You Were Fired?

According to the Balance, there are no federal laws that specifically prohibit employers from discussing the reasons for terminating an employee. However, some states have laws that regulate what employers can disclose about former employees [2].

Generally, employers can inform another employer that you were terminated, laid off, or let go, and they can also provide reasons for your departure. However, if an employer provides false information about your termination that damages your reputation, you may have grounds to sue for defamation.

The burden of proof would fall on you as the plaintiff to prove that the information shared by your past employer was false and damaging in order for you to win the case.

What is a Service Letter?

Some states have laws, often referred to as service letter laws, mandating that employers provide former employees with letters detailing certain aspects of their employment, such as work histories, pay rates, or reasons for termination.

If you reside in a state with a service letter law and your former employer has not provided you with a service letter, you can formally request one in writing. It’s advisable to check if your state has a specific time frame for requesting service letters and to make your request promptly, ideally within a day or two of your dismissal. Sending your request via certified mail ensures a record of your communication and may help expedite the process.

When requesting a service letter, you are seeking an honest and comprehensive account of your employment. However, termination reasons can be subjective, and you might not agree with the content.

While you may consider legal action for defamation based on the letter’s content, many states offer protections to employers from such lawsuits regarding the information provided in a service letter. Nevertheless, most laws require employers to provide service letters that are “truthful” or “in good faith” to benefit from this protection.

Can You Ask For a Reason of Termination?

If you live in a state without a specific service letter law, your employer might not provide a written explanation for your termination. In such cases, you can request a written explanation from the person who officially informs you of your dismissal.

If your employer refuses to give you written documentation of the reasons for your dismissal, you may be in for a wait — and some extra work — before you get it.

In states without service letter laws, there are limited options to compel your employer to provide a written explanation immediately upon dismissal. You may eventually discover the reasons for your termination through other means, such as accessing your personnel files or during the discovery process if you pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Employee Turnover Statistics

  • THE U.S. AVERAGE ANNUAL TURNOVER RATE IS 47 PERCENT – As of 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total separations rate of 47.2 percent for U.S. jobs, encompassing both voluntary and involuntary turnover. Turnover rates vary widely across industries and individual companies, underscoring the importance of regularly calculating your turnover rate to monitor your organization’s performance.
  • 70 PERCENT OF ALL U.S. EMPLOYEE TURNOVER IS VOLUNTARY – In 2022, quits represented 70 percent of all U.S. job separations, marking the highest annual level recorded by the BLS JOLTS program. Quits accounted for 2.8 percent of the annual average separations rate of 3.9 percent in 2022.
  • OVER 4 MILLION U.S. EMPLOYEES LEAVE THEIR JOB EACH MONTH – In 2022, a total of 50.6 million U.S. employees quit their jobs, averaging around 4.2 million departures each month. This translates to approximately 2.5 percent of the entire U.S. workforce (which totaled 166.1 million in 2021) turning over monthly. While turnover is a natural part of business operations, experiencing such high turnover rates each month emphasizes the need for employers to prioritize their retention strategies.
  • 1 IN 3 EMPLOYEES WHO QUITEDN’T HAVE A JOB LINED UP IN 2021 – A growing number of job seekers are taking risks, as 36 percent of employees who quit within a six-month period in 2021 did so without securing a new job. Additionally, among employees likely to quit within the next six months, 64 percent expressed willingness to do so without securing a new position.
  • VOLUNTARY U.S. TURNOVER DOUBLED BETWEEN 2011 AND 2021 – The voluntary turnover rate for U.S. employees doubled over a decade, rising from approximately 25 million quits in 2011 to nearly 50 million quits in 2021, as reported by the Work Institute. Gathering and integrating employee feedback is crucial for developing an effective action plan to reduce turnover and enhance employee retention rates.

According to the [3].

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