Can I be fired for looking for a new job?

If your employer fires you for looking for another job, there is a possibility that you may be able to sue him for wrongful termination, but only under certain circumstances.

The employment laws in your state determine how difficult it will be for you to win a lawsuit against your former employer. Many states have “at-will” employment laws. This means, you can be fired at any time for nearly any reason. On the other hand, you may have a written or oral employment contract with your employer stating that you cannot be fired without good reason, or without a specific termination process that may include a disciplinary procedure like oral and written warnings or suspensions. Another circumstance might be that you are a member of a labor union. If you are an at-will employee, it would be much more difficult for you to sue your employer since your employer has the right to terminate you for almost any reason or none at all, at any time.

If, though, you have a written or oral contract with your employer protecting you from arbitrary dismissal, or you are a member of a labor union, you may be able to argue that you are protected from being fired at will. In order to recover monetary damages, you will likely have to prove that you were only fired because you interviewed for another job. Even if your employer argues that the firing was not at-will since there is a policy forbidding current employees from job hunting,  your former employer’s requirement that you not interview for other positions while employed may have been an unlawful non-compete clause (NCC). States take different positions on NCCs. Most states require that NCCs be upheld. California, which values open competition and employee mobility, is an exception. The language of the NCC in your employment contract, however, may be so overly restrictive that courts in other states will find it void.  

Before you consult an employment law attorney, determine whether you violated any other rules imposed by your former employer. Did you schedule the interview during your normal work hours? Did you lie about why you were absent from work? These actions may be grounds for termination.