Can You Get Fired for No Reason?

That Depends on the Circumstances

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Not all job changes are voluntary. If you think that you might lose your job, you’re probably wondering what kind of reasons your employer needs to fire you. Do they need a “good” reason, and if so, what does that mean? Is it legal to fire someone without good cause?

Job security is mostly a thing of the past. The median employee tenure hovered around four years in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Very few workers will retire having worked for the same employer for most of their careers.

Key Takeaways

  • At-will employees can be fired for no reason.
  • Some employment contracts, including union contracts, can protect you from being fired without cause.
  • Even if you're an at-will employee, being fired for discriminatory reasons or fired for being a whistleblower is a form of wrongful termination.

Can You Get Fired for No Reason?

Unfortunately, getting fired without a reason can happen to just about anyone. If you are an at-will employee, like most Americans, your employer doesn't need a reason to fire you.

In fact, it might be easier for them to get rid of you for no reason at all than to specify the cause, which could leave them open to accusations of discriminatory behavior. This sometimes works out in employees' favor, as some companies will term almost any separation a layoff, which often entitles workers to unemployment benefits, in order to avoid potential legal wrangling down the road.

But even if it beats the alternative—being fired without cause or a financial cushion—unemployment or severance isn't much consolation when you've been let go for no reason.

At-Will Employment

For most states in the U.S., employment at will has become a standard precedent of employment contracts in recent years. At-will employment is an employer-employee agreement in which a worker can be fired or dismissed for any reason, without warning, and without explanation. Check with your state department of labor for regulations in your location.

Most at-will employees are informed and even required to sign waivers indicating their acknowledgment of being hired "at will." As a result, loss claims for being fired under this kind of agreement typically get denied by the court.

Two Weeks Notice

At-will employment also means that an employee has the right to leave their job without any reason or warning, although it is considered more polite and more socially acceptable to give at least two weeks' notice.

While it might seem unfair to be expected to give your employer two weeks' notice when they can pretty much terminate you without notice, remember that you want to build a network of former colleagues who think well of you and would give you a recommendation without reservation. Giving notice helps to ensure that this will be the case.

Employment Agreements

Some employees are covered by an employment agreement or employment contract, which typically outlines terms of employment. These contracts may also detail the circumstances and terms under which an employee can be fired.

Other employees are covered by union or association agreements known as collective bargaining agreements. These agreements typically also detail when and how an employee can be fired.

Wrongful Termination

An employee can be wrongfully terminated if discrimination is involved in the termination, if public policy is violated, if they’re a whistleblower, or if company policy states guidelines for termination and then the company fails to follow those guidelines.

You might also be wrongfully terminated if you were forced to resign because your employer made working conditions unbearable. This is called “constructive discharge,” and it includes harassment, mistreatment, and reduced pay for non-work-related reasons.

If You've Been Fired

If you've been fired, you want to leave your position as gracefully as possible, under the circumstances, to minimize the fallout for your career. This means resisting the urge to storm out of the building or to say bad things about your boss or the company (either at that moment or later on, in job interviews).

The best thing to do is to take a beat to consider your situation, and then arm yourself with as many facts as possible. Find out how you’ll collect your remaining pay, for example, and what happens to any accrued vacation time or vested benefits.


Don't assume you have no recourse if you have been wrongly terminated. Depending on the circumstance and the law, you may be able to sue for wrongful termination.

Unemployment Benefits

You might be eligible for unemployment. Check with your state unemployment office to find out whether you can still apply. If your termination is described as a layoff by the company, you should be able to receive unemployment. You may also be able to receive unemployment if you have been let go without cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Get Fired Without Getting Written Up?

If you are an at-will employee, you can be fired with no warning, notice, or reason at any time. However, if you are fired because you are a member of a protected class, it would be considered discrimination and wrongful termination.

Can I Sue My Employer for Wrongful Termination?

If you have evidence that your employer fired you for discriminatory reasons or because you were a whistleblower, you may have a case for wrongful termination. You should consult an attorney in your state if you believe your termination was discriminatory.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employee Tenure in 2020."

  2. Feldman Browne. "Can I Sue My Employer for Firing Me for an Unfair or Untrue Reason?"

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