What states have At Will employment?

At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law meaning an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason without incurring legal responsibility. In addition to employer rights to terminate, at-will also means an employer may change the terms of employment (including wages, hours, benefits, and paid time off) with no notice or consequence. 

It also means an employee can quit at any time without providing notice or explanation and without fear of legal action against them. Notably, at-will workers are still protected by state and federal laws prohibiting wrongful termination or termination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, physical health, whistleblowing, or other factors protected by labor laws.

At-will employment is generally presumed in all U.S. states (excluding Montana) even when it is not expressly written or otherwise communicated. Most employers provide a clear statement of at-will policy in employee handbooks or other written documentation given to the employee upon hire. An at-will employee can not sue for lost wages due to dismissal from a job, provided the dismissal did not violate any state or federal law.

All 50 states in the U.S. and Washington, D.C. are at will employment states, however there are specific exceptions that are recognized in all or some states. To jump

Employment Contracts

An employee with an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement may have rights not afforded to at-will employees. These rights would be stated in the employment contract signed by both the employee and the employer. 

This exemption is observed in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Implied Contracts

Employers may not fire an employee when there is an implied contract between them, even if there is no legal or written documentation of a contract. These cases, however, are difficult to prove and the burden of proof rests solely on the employee. Statements in the employer’s policy or employee handbooks may indicate that employees are not at-will and can only be fired for just cause.

This exemption is observed in 36 states and Washington, D.C. States which do not recognize the implied contract exception are Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.

The Public Policy Exception

The public policy exception provides protection against termination that violates a public policy of the state. For example, in states where the public policy exception is observed, an employer cannot terminate an employee for refusing to engage in illegal activity at the request of an employer. Another example would be termination for filing a workers’ compensation claim after being injured on the job. The public policy exception is the most commonly accepted exception for wrongful termination outside of discrimination laws. 

This exception is observed in 42 states and Washington, D.C. States which do not recognize the public policy exception are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Main, Nebraska, New York, and Rhode Island.

Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

A minority of states recognize the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. State-to-state interpretation of this exception varies widely; thusly there is no set definition. In general, this exception means that terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice are prohibited. This exception may also include a “just cause” standard taking into account whether or not the employer properly followed its expressed personnel policies, the duration of employment, or lack of prior criticism of performance and other basic notions of fairness.

This exception is observed in 11 states. Those states are:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.


At Will Employment States 2019
State Public Policy Exemption Implied Contract Exemption Covenant Good Faith Exemption
Alabama No Yes Yes
Alaska Yes Yes Yes
Arizona Yes Yes Yes
Arkansas Yes Yes No
California Yes Yes Yes
Colorado Yes Yes No
Connecticut Yes Yes No
Delaware Yes No Yes
District of Columbia Yes Yes No
Florida No No No
Georgia No No No
Hawaii Yes Yes No
Idaho Yes Yes Yes
Illinois Yes Yes No
Indiana Yes No No
Iowa Yes Yes No
Kansas Yes Yes No
Kentucky Yes Yes No
Louisiana No No No
Maine Yes Yes No
Maryland Yes Yes No
Massachusetts Yes No Yes
Michigan Yes Yes No
Minnesota Yes Yes No
Mississippi Yes Yes No
Missouri Yes No No
Montana Yes No Yes
Nebraska No Yes Yes
Nevada Yes Yes No
New Hampshire Yes Yes No
New Jersey Yes Yes No
New Mexico Yes Yes No
New York No Yes No
North Carolina Yes No No
North Dakota Yes Yes No
Ohio Yes Yes No
Oklahoma Yes Yes No
Oregon Yes Yes No
Pennsylvania Yes No No
Rhode Island No No No
South Carolina Yes Yes No
South Dakota Yes Yes No
Tennessee Yes Yes No
Texas Yes No No
Utah Yes Yes Yes
Vermont Yes Yes No
Virginia Yes No No
Washington Yes Yes No
West Virginia Yes Yes No
Wisconsin Yes Yes No
Wyoming Yes Yes Yes



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