Understanding At-Will Employment

Question:

Can my company fire me when I’m getting my work done well and on time?

Answer:

The short answer: yes.

Nobody wants to think about it, especially if you love your job. You want to believe it can’t happen to you, especially if you’re good at what you do.

But things are not always in your control. Of course you do the very best you can, every day, at a job that uses your skills and experience, and offers you the right amount of growth and challenge. Life gets in the way for companies as well as individuals.

Maryland is an “at-will employment” state. That means, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, that “in the absence of an express contract, agreement or policy to the contrary, an employee may be hired or fired for almost any reason -- whether fair or not -- or for no reason at all.” You can read more about it at DLLR’s website: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/wagepay/wpatwill.shtml

What can you do about it? You can make yourself ever more marketable. Keep in touch with friends and contacts about what’s going on in their companies, and think about whether those would be good places for you someday. Join LinkedIn if you haven’t. Look up from your desk occasionally and pay attention to what’s going on around you at work. Learn a new skill; accept a new assignment; create projects that add value to the company and your own job.

No one knows the future. Your company may fold; your manager may be replaced; your own life may change in ways that make this job unsuitable for you. Technology absolutely will change; you can count on that. So you control the things you can control. And keep your eyes open for the next big opportunity.

Julie Anderson