Career Planning Leaving a Job When Can an Employer Fire You By Phone or Email? By Alison Doyle Alison Doyle Facebook Twitter Website Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts and has counseled both students and corporations on hiring practices. She has given hundreds of interviews on the topic for outlets including The New York Times, BBC News, and LinkedIn. Alison founded CareerToolBelt.com and has been an expert in the field for more than 20 years. learn about our editorial policies Updated on May 6, 2022 Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article Can You Get Fired by Email or Phone? Employer Termination Policies Typical Termination Process What To Do If You're Fired Wrongful Termination Photo: Alistair Berg / Digital Vision / Getty Images 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 break up with employees like they were a bad blind date? 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 warning and tell you in any manner they choose. Can You Get Fired by Email or Phone? 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 But 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 a typical company's 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. Bottom line, employers have a brand, and they don’t want theirs to include “fires people in 280 characters or less.” Note 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 or unused vacation or sick pay. Note Avoid retaliating in an unprofessional way if your employer uses an inappropriate method to inform you of a 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 Office 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. 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. The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources 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. National Conference of State Legislatures. "At-Will Employment." SHRM. "10 Steps To an Effective Termination." USA.gov. "Wrongful Discharge/Termination of Employment."