Employment at Will
Like most states, Oregon follows the doctrine of “at will” employment. That doctrine has different applications for public employees, employees with collective bargaining agreements and/or employees who have an employment contract.
Discrimination lawyers, particularly employment discrimination lawyers, often find themselves in the difficult position of having to explain to folks who feel they have been wronged the difference between unfairness and unlawfulness. By its definition, discrimination simply means making a choice. But discrimination law or more appropriately anti-discrimination law addresses the act of making choices based upon a protected class, such as a person’s race, gender, religion, national origin (ethnicity), disability, or age (over 40).
Many choices and employer decisions are unfair, but not unlawful.
At will employment means that an employee works for a company at the employer’s will and the employee’s will. The employee can no more make the company give him a job than the company can make the employee work. An employee can quit any time, and the employer can fire the employee any time. Neither one needs a reason to end the relationship. In other words, most terminations are not a wrongful termination.
Employment discrimination laws, wrongful termination and retaliation are exceptions to at will employment.