Firing people; that easy??

I have been on here a while now and although have never lived in the States, have visited it many times and have a cousin there…what I seem to be picking up is that people can be fired ‘just like that’ in the US. That is, if the boss doesn’t like you or you do one thing wrong, you can be dismissed immediately.
Could you tell me if I am very wrong about this.

The number of times a week my boss tells an employee if they don’t like their job they can leave is probably too numerous to mention. I live in a “right to work” state which essentially says yes, I can be fired at any time, for any reason, including no reason at all.

So are people (other than employers) happy with this?

I am. I can just walk out on a job. I am on equal terms with the employer and they are not bound to me any more than I am bound to them. It feels like freedom, freedom I wouldn’t have if the employer would have to jump through hoops to fire me (no matter how counterintuitive it sounds, that’s how I feel).

Like Auntbeastsaid, in a free employment state (Wisconsin is) your bottom is pretty much to the wind. I belong to a union which is a little help, but for the most part you are on your own. of course you can sue for wrongful termination, but you are unlikely to have the bucks for the lawyer.

I wouldn’t say they’re happy with it, but that’s why a lot of people create unions. Unions offer at least a little bit of job security. But unions have their downfalls as well.

Yes, for most (at least mine anyways) states, an employer can fire you at will for no reason unless there is a contract and you have the power to quit at any time for any reason. But they’ll usually try and at least come up with some sort of reason. I mean, there can’t be any racist remarks or sexist remarks involved at all.]page to read

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I guess I should clarify my position:

a) Why would you want to work somewhere where you’d be fired if not for the laws protecting you?

b) If it’s difficult to fire a person and you do in fact get fired it looks much worse if this fact ever comes to light during your employment search (it really shouldn’t but it could).

c) How do you know if the only reason you have the job you do is because it’s cheaper to keep paying you than to fire you?

maybe that will work.

My Hubby works for the state. It’s very difficult to fire someone, even if they have evidence of malfesance. Not that it’s impossible, of course, but there are a lot of hoops to be jumped through and red tape. (The union does fight for its employees here.) Most of the time, they convince the person to resign to avoid all the hassle.

Okay, I’m another at will employee that is happy with the arrangement. It goes both ways and it gives me a fair amount of freedom. Certainly I plan to give anywone I work for two (or more) weeks notice but if something is untennable then I have the ability to leave then and there if I have to.

Yes it is very easy to fire people. It does not mean the company doing the firing is free and clear. Unemployment does come into play. Companies have to pay into unemployment pools. If a company has a habit of firing people without good cause it will cost them. If you are an employee fired without good cause you do get a period of state hand-ups while you look for another job.

I like the employment at will system. In general it requires people pull their own weight. If someone is a slacker they can get fired for it. In non-employment at will systems slackers get to hang out for a long time and drive down moral.

Here in Canada, it’s just about as easy to be fired. However, the market works to help solve this, in that companies now are free to compete with each other in offering various employment contractst that might limit their ability to fire you. Most companies have a termination policy that extends beyond the minimum legal requirements, and if you don’t like a company’s termination policy, you’re free to not work for them.

Termination policies often spell out exactly what might be grounds for dismissal, and what steps will be taken by the company before this happens (verbal warnings, written warnings, etc). In the case of layoffs where the employee has done nothing wrong but is terminated because the job is no longer worth maintaining, there will often be extra severance packages, longer notice, continuation of benefits for some time after termination, or other payouts to the employee.

I think this is exactly the right way to do it. When employees can’t be fired, companies are more reluctant to hire in the first place. And perversely, I think these laws hurt the disadvantaged more than they protect them, because it’s precisely at-risk members of a society that companies are going to be very shy about hiring if they can’t be fired.

Here in North America, employers can take a risk, because if the employee doesn’t work out, they can let them go and find another. That also means that people with spotty employment records or other problems can still find work.

Well, every person fired for non-downsizing reasons is another person they’re going to have to hire who is presumably going to be better than the person they fired. If you were a skilled, out of work person, I imagine you would like at will firing a lot.

Yes, if you need to do something really bad to be fired then people are going to assume you did something really bad if you got fired.

I imagine much the same as a company feels that the only reason they have an employee is because no other company has offered more money.

It’s easier to get a job if an employer can fire you easily. Conversely, employers are more reluctant to hire if it’s a lot of hassle to get rid of someone.

California is an at-will state - that is, under our laws neither an employer nor an employee has to give a reason for terminating employment unless there is an employment contract that explicitly says otherwise (most common with unionized jobs). Still, it is illegal to fire someone for certain reasons: race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, etc. Even if an employer has not given a reason for firing an employee, it is sometimes still possible to prove illegal discrimination (for example, if in a mass layoff they get rid of all the black emloyees).

Groman, you understand that’s not really equal terms, right? Equal terms would be if your boss can fire you or you can fire your boss, not you or your boss being able to fire you.

It IS as equal as it can possibly get. You can “fire” your boss and refuse to take his/her orders from this moment forth, without notice. Whether that will matter to the boss is a function of your value to the company.

As a conservative capitalist, I have to say that I feel that the American system is a large part of the economic success. Security breeds contempt. I’ve seen it in SO many instances, especially in government positions. The Department of Motor Vehicles in California is almost legendary for its lax attitude toward its clientel. It’s almost impossible to be fired, and the customers are legally compelled to use the DMV’s services. You don’t like it? What are you going to do about it, eh, buddy? Go to another company? Forget it.

I worked with a group of foreign interns who had no financial stake in the company they worked for, and although they put in the hours to look good, they couldn’t even be bothered to run English spell checks on the web forms they created, because no one from their company would proof them, and they stood to benefit nothing by making a better product. Having incentive has EVERYTHING to do with people doing a good job. And I say that as a HS teacher, seeing how some people just mark the time and wait for the pension.

The further point is that, except that except for protections like race and gender, letting the marketplace decide what it needs is the most effecieint system, and therefore the the overall best for everyone, all things considered. Are we really to believe that people were better under the Soviet system, when they could basically not be fired, and were guaranteed jobs?

I think this thread is giving a slightly skewed view of the real situation.

In “at will” states, the employer may discharge an employee for no particular reason,
it had better be no particular reason.
If a person is fired for their race, sex, age, ethnic identity, or place of national origin (and the fired employee can demonstrate that that played a part in the firing), the Federal government can come in and give the company a lot of grief–grief that the company would prefer to avoid.
Most large corporations, in order to avoid being hammered by accusations of discriminatory firing, have established internal procedures that must be followed in order to terminate an employee. Even if the employee does not secure a formal signed contract with the company, the courts look on the documented internal procedures as if they were contracts and an employee fired in violation of a company procedure (too few warnings, too few written warnings, management failure to document the problems and warnings) gives the employee an enormous edge if they choose to sue the company for wrongful dismissal.

Those sort of barriers tend to reduce the number of persons who are simply hurled out into the street because they wore the wrong colored socks to work one morning.

In 40 years in the labor force, I have only known of a handful of dismissals that appeared to be based on the whim of a boss–and they were nearly all low-paying, dead-end jobs from which the fired employee was probably delighted to be released. This is not to say that there are no wrongful dismissals, but few employees creep about their workplace in constant fear for their jobs.


In any place that has employers and employees, there’s going to be a procedure for getting rid of an employee. In a state/nation with laws protecting employees, that procedure will be designed by the government and it’ll be the same for each employer. In a place with laws that are more slanted toward the employer, that procedure will be designed by the individual employer.

I live in a state where each employer can decide what their procedure is to fire someone, and I work for an employer whose procedure I agree with. If I didn’t like the way my boss set things up, I could find another job with a different procedure.

In some ways, I think of employment as being a bit like marriage. Nobody asked me to prove my reasons when I got married, and since this is a no-fault divorce state, I didn’t have to prove any reasons to dissolve that marriage either. I’d rather live in a “no-fault” employment state, too.

At low-income hourly wage jobs, like you would find in a grocery store or gas station or something like that, usually the managers can and will exercise the power to summarily fire people.

However as tomndebb has said many of the “better” jobs out there (office/white collar jobs, manufacturing jobs, especially workplaces that are unionized) the corporation has voluntarily established certain guidelines and procedures for termination that effectively mean when you are working with that corporation you aren’t really working “at will.” The company will generally not fire you summarily, although for really egregious things most company policies do specify immediate termination, by egregious I mean things like blatant stealing of expensive company assets, assaulting a coworker or superior and etc.

Also, just for the record, to my knowledge 49 states are “at will.” So I’m not sure making that designation is really very important. The only state that isn’t “at will” is Montana. So unless you are talking about employment in Montana I think it is safe to just assume that in any discussion about employment in America it is in an “at will” state.