AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT & UNLAWFUL TERMINATIONS IN ARIZONA
In Arizona, most employment relationships are categorized as “at-will.” At-will employment means that an employer may terminate an employee at any time, without notice, for almost any reason, so long as that reason is not unlawful. Below are some unlawful reasons for employee terminations.
“Whistleblowing” refers to employees who report to management the belief that someone in the organization is violating the law. In Arizona, employers may not terminate employees for reporting their belief that someone is violating, or is about to violate, an Arizona statute or the Arizona Constitution. Federal law also provides many protections for employees terminated for whistleblowing.
Discrimination and Retaliation
Under both state and federal law, employers may not terminate an employee for a discriminatory reason such as race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin. Under federal law, employers are also barred from terminating employees for pregnancy. Further, employers may not terminate employees in retaliation for raising a claim of discrimination.
Wage and Hour Claims
The minimum wage in Arizona as of January 1, 2019 is $11.00. Employees are also entitled to overtime pay under federal law, if the employee works over 40 hours in one week. Both state and federal law provide that employers may not terminate employees for asserting a claim or right under these laws. Further, in Arizona, employers who terminate minor employees for serving on a wage board, testifying on a wage board, or participating in any other investigation relating to Minimum Wages for Minors are guilty of a petty offense.
Workplace Safety Claims
Under both state and federal law, employers may not terminate employees for filing any complaint or instituting a cause of action relating to workplace safety.
Under state law, employees may take time off from work for certain obligations including military leave, jury duty, and voting. Under federal law, employees may also take family and medical leave if the employer has 50 or more employees. Employers may not terminate employees for exercising their right to take time off from work in statutorily protected instances such as these.
Breach of Contract
Employers should also determine if the employee being terminated has an employment contract containing a “good cause” requirement. If so, the employee may have an unlawful termination claim for breach of contract under state law.
The reasons listed above are the most common forms of unlawful termination. However, the list is not exhaustive and other unlawful termination concerns may be present. Further, although this article was written in the context of employee terminations, unlawful termination is not the only concern. It is also illegal to discipline an employee for the reasons listed above. If you have questions regarding employee terminations or disciplinary action, please contact an employment attorney at Mesch Clark Rothschild.