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Is Illinois an at-will employment state?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2022 | Employment Law, Uncategorized

Most people in Illinois likely feel quite secure in their employment. This sense of security may come from the assumption that their job depends solely on their performance. Yet is that truly the case?

Many may have heard of the idea of “at-will” employment, which posits any party to an employment agreement may end it at their own will (without needing to provide any reason). At first glance, some might wonder why anyone would take a job in such circumstances. Yet at-will employment actually benefits both sides, providing an employee the opportunity to leave their job without having to offer a reason for doing so.

At-will employment in Illinois

The question then becomes whether Illinois is an at-will employment state. According to information shared by the Illinois Department of Labor, it is. While an employer in the state cannot discriminate based on certain demographic factors, it may terminate own’s employment at any time with no obligation to provide a valid reason for doing so.

Exceptions to at-will employment

However, those regulations prohibiting employment discrimination reveal an important point about the concept of at-will employment: built-in exceptions exist. The most obvious are cases where a dismissal violates public policy (such as a termination due to one’s race, sex or religious beliefs). Another is when a termination violates an implied contract. If an employer makes promises to an employee (either formal or through established employment guidelines) that imply that fulfilling those promises guarantees their employment, then a dismissed employee might argue that they had an implied contract of employment.

The final exception to at-will employment are cases involving implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing. This covers instances where an employee demonstrates an ethical violation (such as firing an employee before having to pay out a promised bonus).