Termination, while often unpleasant, is simply a necessary
part of the employment relationship. 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
Of course, as with nearly all legal principles, there
are limits to the 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 terminate employment. Additionally, note that termination can be
for any legal reason. Numerous state and federal laws 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 occur. Employees may be entitled
to receive notice, continuation of health benefits, and timely payout
of earned compensation.