Is my employer required to notify me in advance of my firing?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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An employer is not required to give you any notice before firing you from your job, provided that there is no specific agreement or understanding within your employment arrangement that says he must do so.
While every state has its own particular employment laws, all states operate under some form of the “at will” employment doctrine. This means is that, in a typical situation, an employee may leave a job at any time, for any reason, with no notice required; on the other hand, an employer may also fire an employee as he or she sees fit, without particular reason and without advance warning.
There are exceptions to these rules, which primarily come into play in situations where discrimination laws are violated or where a contract exists between the employer and the employee that indicates something other than this freedom of action.
Regarding the first of these two exceptions, the law states that an employee may not be fired as an act of discrimination. While your employer does not usually have to give a reason for firing you, you do have the right to question the firing if you feel that the act was based on some form of discrimination. If such a case went to court, your employer would have to prove his or her reasoning in order to disprove the discrimination idea. However, this would be the case regardless of whether or not you were given advance notice of your firing.
The other major exception occurs when there is a specific clause in an agreement between the employer and the employee. The clause need not be written, and in some cases not even explicitly stated, but rather simply implied, although implied clauses are difficult to prove. If the clause gave you a valid reason to believe you would receive notice before being fired, or that you would continue at the job for some period of time into the future, firing you without notice may be in violation of that contract, and thus an illegal action on the part of your employer.