Is Federal Employment At-Will?

No. Federal employees are not at-will workers because they cannot be fired without cause and are entitled to due process when facing adverse actions, like termination.

What Is At-Will Employment?

According to the Legal Information Institute (LII):

At-will employment refers to an employment agreement stating that employment is for an indefinite period of time and may be terminated either by employer or employee.”

Essentially, you or your employer can end your employment relationship at any time for any reason (or no reason at all), as long as the employer does not violate local, state, or federal employment laws and neither party breaches an employment contract.

What Is an Example of At Will Employment?

If you get hired at a new company, your direct supervisor doesn’t particularly like you, and you get fired 2 weeks later, this is an example of at-will employment. Your employer doesn’t need a reason to fire you, so the fact that you and your supervisor don’t get along can end the employment relationship.

Nevertheless, you may have a claim for wrongful termination if your supervisor did not like you and your employer fired you due to your protected characteristics – including “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).”

Another example of at-will employment:

If you start a new job and decide you don’t like it, you can quit with or without notice, and you will not face any legal consequences.

Why Aren’t Government Workers At-Will Employees?

Government workers are not at-will employees because they cannot be fired at will.

Instead, federal agencies must cite a reason for the termination and go through a lengthy firing process. If your federal employer wants to fire you for poor performance, for example, your supervisor will need to start by putting you on a performance improvement plan (PIP).

Unlike at-will employees, who can only fight a termination if it was illegal, federal employees can also appeal any adverse action taken against them.

What Are My Rights as a Federal Employee?

As a federal employee, you have the right to due process, and all hiring and firing decisions are subject to third-party review. You also have the right to appeal an adverse action you do not agree with.

John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law can help you understand and protect your rights and legal options as a federal employee when you are facing an adverse action or termination.

We have over 25 years of experience, and we are dedicated to protecting you and your career.

If you are facing scrutiny at work, do not hesitate to call us at (202) 759-7780 or contact us online today.

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