Can an Employer Fire You By Phone, Email, or Text?

Man checking phone

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No matter how your boss delivers the news, it’s painful to hear that you’re being fired. However, there are good ways and bad ways to learn that your employment is coming to an end. The worst ways to find out: impersonal methods like phone, email, or even text messaging.

Why would companies choose to terminate employees this way? In part, because they can. Your soon-to-be-former employer doesn’t have to be nice when they fire you. In most cases, they can let you go without notice or warning, and tell you in any manner they choose.

Here's how (and when) an employer can fire you, information on laws regulating termination, and how to handle it when you've been fired.

Key Takeaways

  • There are no federal laws prohibiting an employer from terminating employees via phone or email.
  • Most companies will not fire workers by phone, email, or text message because they have a brand to protect.
  • If your company does terminate you in an unprofessional fashion, resist the urge to respond in kind.

When Can You Get Fired by Email, Phone, or Text?

Unless you are covered by an employment contract or state law that stipulates how you can be terminated, there are no restrictions on how an employer can fire you.

Most employees in the U.S. are employed at will, which means that they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Employers can fire employees over the phone, by paper letter or email, in person—or yes, even by sending a text message.

Employer Termination Policies

Will you be fired via phone or worse? In most cases, no. While an employer can fire you in any method they choose, this is not typical company policy. Most employers know that these methods of firing would hurt staff morale. Word of harsh firings can reverberate through an organization and impact the productivity and retention of key employees.

If your company is planning to stay in business for a while, they have an additional reason to be professional during the termination process. Not only do they hope to retain their current employees, but they also want to be able to hire new ones as necessary. If word gets out that they fire staff via text or phone call, the organization will have a hard time attracting new talent. The bottom line is, employers have a brand, and they don’t want theirs to include “fires people in 280 characters or less.”


Most employers create standard policies for firing and discharging staff. Typically, this includes a meeting with a human resources representative in which you go over the terms of your termination and leave detailed documentation of your separation, such as a signed document.

The company may have provided you with a warning and given you a chance to improve your performance. But this is not a requirement unless stipulated by company policy or employment agreement.

Typical Termination Process

Almost all organizations have a set process for discharging staff, which normally includes a meeting with a human resources or management representative who will go over benefits and any other conditions for your separation.

Organizations also want solid documentation that you have received their notice of termination, such as a signed document or registered mail receipt.

What To Do If You're Fired

Regardless of how you are informed of a firing, make sure your employer provides all the benefits that are outlined in your employee manual or contract, like severance pay and unused vacation or sick pay.


Avoid retaliating in an unprofessional way if your employer uses an inappropriate method to inform you of termination. Although it might feel good at the moment to vent your feelings, it can backfire should future employers seek input about your background from your prior organization.

Wrongful Termination

While a firing over the phone or via text is not typically illegal, there are instances of wrongful termination. This happens when an employee is discharged from employment for illegal reasons or if company policy is violated when the employee is fired.

If you believe your termination was wrongful or you have not been treated according to the law or company policy, you can get help. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim.

You may also be covered by state laws that regulate how employers can discharge employees. Check with your state labor department for guidelines.

Whether or not you were wrongfully terminated, it is important not to beat yourself up. Firings can happen to anyone. Rather than dwell on it, focus on moving forward.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you get fired without a warning?

In many cases, workers are considered to be at-will employees who can be fired at any time without a reason. However, employees may be protected by an employment agreement, company policy, or state law that has guidelines for termination.

Can you collect unemployment if you were fired?

Unemployment benefits are available to eligible workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Requirements to qualify for unemployment vary between states, so check with your state unemployment department to determine eligibility for unemployment compensation if you're fired.

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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. National Conference of State Legislatures. "At-Will Employment."

  2. SHRM. "10 Steps To an Effective Termination."

  3. "Wrongful Discharge/Termination of Employment."

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?"

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