Like many other states, Alaska is an “at-will” employment state. This means that either employee or employer can terminate the work agreement at any time. The responsibility of the employer is to make sure that the reason for the firing is not illegal.
Alaska protects the rights of employers to terminate employees that are no longer needed or wanted. Let’s take a closer look at the right and wrong ways to terminate an employee.
The Legal Way to Terminate
At-will laws do not require that employers show cause for firing. An employee can be fired without notice or cause.
There are several ways that terminating an employee can be illegal. Here are a few examples:
- Discriminatory firing: Employees cannot be fired for any reasons that would appear to be discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that enforces federal antidiscrimination laws. Employees may file a claim with the EEOC if they feel that their firing was a result of discrimination.
- Retaliation: Whistleblowers that turn their employers in for perceived infractions or violations, are often the same to claim that they were fired for retaliation. Employers should exercise extra caution when firing an employee that may feel that they are being retaliated against for any reason.
- Breach of contract: If the employee has a contract that stipulates a term of service, such as two years, then their job security is a factor. Agreements, either oral or written, that guarantee employment can cause claims of breach of contract to arise. In these cases, the need for terminating with a good cause becomes necessary. A solid progressive disciplinary policy is key to establishing and documenting that the employee was let go for cause.
These are just three examples that an employer must be extra cautious before firing an employee to avoid legal challenges.
It is important to listen to instincts when dealing with problematic employees. It is necessary to not give a disgruntled employee cause for claiming that they were fired illegally. Legal counsel that is experienced in employment law in Alaska can be an employer’s best asset in avoiding or dealing with wrongful termination cases.