Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Employment at Will Definition:

An employment contract during which the employer may terminate the employment at any time subject only to the reason not being contrary to public policy.

Related Terms: Employer, Wrongful Discharge, Wrongful Termination, Employee, Employment, Unfair Dismissal

Often referred to as a doctrine as the employment at will doctrine.

In Leslie, Justice Hamilton of the United States District Court (Indiana) wrote of a "common law presumption of employment at will" adding:

"[U]nder that doctrine, employment for an indefinite term and not supported by independent consideration from the employee is presumed to be terminable at will, meaning the employee may be fired for any reason or for no reason.

"There are narrow exceptions when an employee is fired in retaliation for exercising a statutory right or for refusing to violate a law ..."

In Wrongful Discharge, Am. Jur. defines employment at will as follows:

"Employment at will is a term used to mean that an employer may discharge an employee without restriction, that is, for any reason or for no reason, without incurring any liability to the employee, as long as the reason for the discharge does not violate public policy."


  • Canavan, M., (publisher), American Jurisprudence, 2nd Edition (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Group, 2003), Volume 82, page 595.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Employment Law
  • Leslie v St. Vincent New Hope Inc., 873 F. Supp. 1250 (1995)

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