At-Will Employment Doctrine

Since the late nineteenth century, Wisconsin has been at-will state. Under the at-will employment doctrine, an employer can terminate an employment relationship (aka fire an employee) for good cause, no cause, or even for reasons that are subjectively and morally “wrong.”

The at-will employment doctrine also means that employees are free to end the employment relationship (aka quit), whenever they so choose and for whatever reason(s) they so choose.

At Walcheske & Luzi, we receive countless phone calls and emails from individuals who have been fired unjustly and unfairly. They seemingly did nothing wrong, made mistakes less egregious than those of their coworkers, were the victims of favoritism, missed work only once, etc. While situations such as these are unfortunate and all of these individuals have our sincere sympathy, unfortunately many of these individuals are left with little recourse because of the leeway given employers in our State.  What the courts have said is that it is not their jobs to second guess an employer’s decisions or sit as a super-personnel department.

However, that is not to say that there is nothing that can be done.

There are multiple exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine. For instance, an employer cannot terminate an employee for any reason that is discriminatory or retaliatory. Doing so could potentially violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), just to name a few.