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At-Will Employment Law in Massachusetts


At-Will Employment Law in Massachusetts


In our practice, we often speak with individuals who have been terminated from employment and are seeking legal recourse. Unfortunately for many individuals who find themselves in this situation, most jobs in Massachusetts are categorized as at-will employment. This means that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. Generally, neither party is required to give any form of notice or warning before terminating the employment relationship. Here is some information on at-will employment law in Massachusetts.

Is Your Job At-Will?

For the most part, in Massachusetts a job is considered at-will unless it is otherwise noted in a contract or other agreement. An Employment Agreement or letter offering the position will usually contain language specifically stating if the position is at-will or not. At-will employment is contrasted with a position that is offered for a specified period of time, such as a contract covering a one year period, and this type of position is not “at-will” but rather contractual.

In addition to explicit information contained in a written contract, an employer may form an implied contract with employees through an employee handbook or other internal guidelines that provide information about any terms that modify the default at-will status of employment.

It is important to note that even if a handbook includes such information, many employee handbooks do contain a disclaimer stating that the employer retains the right to modify employment policies at any time.

If an employer does not give any information about whether a position is at-will or not through a formal contract, employment agreement, employee handbook, internal guideline, or oral conversation, it is generally safe to assume that the position is at-will. There are, however, some exceptions to the default at-will employment rule, which we will discuss in our next article.

What this Means for Most Employees?

In Massachusetts, non-union employees without a contract, are employees at-will and can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason. In general, unless there is an employee handbook or other guideline to the contrary, this can also be done without notice. Of course, an employee cannot be terminated for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation for engaging in certain protected activities as this would violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Our next article will discuss these prohibitions in greater detail.

Please contact an experienced employment attorney if you have specific questions about your employment status or employment discrimination.