Wrongful Termination and At-Will Employment | Minnesota Employment Lawyers

Minnesota Employment Law

In today’s economic environment, ex-employees may consider suing their former employer after losing their job. Employers often wonder:

  • Do I need to state a reason to fire an employee?
  • If a disgruntled ex-employee feels the termination was wrongful, can the employee sue?

The short answer is: It depends.

Minnesota, like most states, has at-will employment. What that essentially means is the employer can terminate employment at any time for any lawful reason—or for no reason at all. The only caveat is you cannot terminate your employees for a discriminatory reason like race or gender, nor can termination be retaliation against for reporting what the employee thinks is illegal activity or filing a worker’s compensation claim. Often employers mistakenly believe they are required to give two weeks notice before terminating an employee. That is just a courtesy, however, not a requirement, unless your employee handbook, policies, or procedures dictate otherwise.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment

There are some situations where at-will employment is not the standard. The most basic occurs when there is a contract to work for a certain period of time. If you agree in writing that work will last for three years, for example, the employee is no longer at-will. Both employer and employee are bound by the terms of the contract. There may be language in the contract that allows you or your employee to terminate employment early, but this contract employment, not at-will employment.

An employment contract may also state it is at-will, but at the same time provide a termination procedure. For example, a contract may provide that you, the employer, must provide the employee with certain written warnings about performance and an opportunity to remedy behavior before being terminated. Courts are divided about whether this actually changes the at-will relationship.

Independent contractors may also be subject to the at-will doctrine. Independent contractors perform services much like an employee, but are categorized differently for tax and other purposes. There are a variety of legal rules for distinguishing between an employee and independent contractor. The most basic test is who exercised control over the time, place, and manner of completing the work. Unless the contract provides otherwise, most independent contractors are at-will.


Even though your employer can fire you in an at-will relationship for virtually any reason, it cannot be a discriminatory reason. There are certain “protected classes” in the law that are protected from discrimination. Your employer cannot fire you because of your race, national origin, religion, gender, age, or disability. There are some exceptions when a person’s gender, religion, or national origin may be a bona fide occupational qualification. In those instances, it is not considered illegal discrimination to use one of those classifications for employment decisions. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the United States President: The Constitution requires the President to be a natural born citizen of the United States. His or her national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification.

Wrongful Termination

So what constitutes wrongful termination if your employment is at-will? If an employee feels they were fired for a discriminatory reason, they may file a legal claim against their employer. If an employee believes their employer has engaged in illegal activity and reports it to government regulators, the employer cannot terminate the employee for that reason. It would be considered retaliation or a violation of “whistleblower” statutes. Employers cannot fire an employee for filing a legitimate worker’s compensation claim. These are narrow exceptions, however. Under at-will employment, an employee has to prove that the employer was more than just unreasonable or unfair to succeed with a wrongful termination claim.

If an employer has a contract with an employee for a specific term and the employee is fired before the end of that term, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination. Employers sometimes set forth termination procedures in employment contracts or in employee handbooks. If an employer fails to follow the termination procedure it established, the employee may also have a claim for wrongful termination. Whether the employee may have a claim is very dependent on the specific facts of the situation.

How a Employment Attorney Can Help

By hiring an experienced employment attorney you can minimize your company’s liability of being involved in a wrongful termination lawsuit. An employment attorney can revise your company handbook to ensure that the procedures and policies are clear and abide by all applicable laws. It is highly recommended that companies update their company handbook on a yearly basis to ensure they remain compliant with all applicable laws. Employment attorneys can also draft separation agreements to protect your company from being sued by a former employee. As your company grows, it will become governed by different laws depending on the number of employees. An employment attorney can help your business conform to applicable laws. If your business is being sued by an past employee, an employment lawyer can defend your company in a timely and cost effective manner. As a CEO or executive, your focus should stay will growing and managing your business, not defending it from a stressful and possibly frivolous lawsuit.

Leave a Public Comment

  • Annette
    September 8, 2016, 11:47 pm

    I would like to know if a employer can terminate you well you are on comp? also wright you up for missing time because of your injury?

  • c CZJones
    August 19, 2016, 10:34 pm

    Please contact regarding wrongful termination. Is there a statute of limitations in Arizona or Minnesota?

  • Karen
    June 1, 2016, 5:23 pm


    Hello friends!!! My name is Karen. i want to testify of the good Loan company who showed light to me after been scammed by 2 different Internet international lender, they all promise to give me a loan after making me pay alot of fees which yield nothing and amounted to no positive result. i lost my hard earn money and it was a total of $7,280.00USD. One day as i was browsing through the internet looking frustrated when i came across a testimony woman who was also scammed and eventually got linked to a legit loan company called Global-Con Financial Service Limited and email (globalconfinanciallimited@gmail.com ) where she finally got her loan, so i decided to contact the same loan company and then told them my story on how i have been scammed by 2 different lenders who did nothing but to course me more pain. I explain to the company by mail and all they told me was to cry no more because i will get my loan in their company and also i have made the right choice of contacting them. i filled the loan application form and proceeded with all that was requested of me and to my shock I was given a loan amount of $50,000.00US Dollars by this great Company (Global-Con Financial Service Limited) managed by Mrs Kumar Rashmi God fearing woman and here i am today happy because this company has given me a loan so i made a vow to my self that i will keep testifying on the internet on how i got my loan.

  • Stacy simmons
    April 10, 2016, 3:49 pm

    Well I got hired with the post office for January 8th 2016 in Twin Lakes Washington I was about to pass my probation April 11th and my boss fired me April 9th for no apparent reason he stated that on the route I was doing it was customers coming in and saying that they were getting the wrong mail in the wrong mailbox he did not write it up he didn’t give me no verbal warning he just let me go for no apparent reason and I believe I was wrongful termination I need an attorney and I need some advice

  • Adan solis
    April 5, 2016, 5:02 pm

    I need a lawyer now,my boss fired me and didnt pay me my last 2 months of work on and off. Now im with no job,please contact me at adansolis@gmail.com if you can help,thank

    March 16, 2016, 1:12 pm

    I have been serially discriminated against by Owner, GM, at Bobby & Steve’s mobile in Columbia Heights, MN I was also wrongful accused and terminated by Manager Roland Beauto because I asked about my hours. This man was arrested November 16th 2015 for Domestic Violence Amma disorderly conduct with officers dues to be extremely intoxicated he was held 4 to 5 days. Yet he remains the manager at that location and is abusive to all his employees. Threatened my job everything I passed him but have watched him freak out on co-workers to customers ands That’s ok

  • Kristie
    March 16, 2016, 8:32 am

    I was up for termination at an At-Will company for something i did not do. But i ended up resigning just for my record. What can i do?

  • Rabmaan
    November 8, 2015, 4:51 am

    Can u be fierd on ur day off for no real reason??

  • priscilla aguiniga
    July 31, 2015, 8:37 am

    Can u get fired for calling a co worker name’s?

  • Hope
    July 20, 2015, 11:08 pm

    My husband was just fired today, and they had his coworker fire him instead of doing it themselves because they were “already home.” My question is, can they fire him for missing a day of work for being in the hospital with our son? Our son was VERY sick and was in the Emergency Room. His now ex-Boss said to him the day after he missed work that he needs to give them 2 week notice if hes going to miss work even if it is an emergency. I believe this is wrong and completely stupid. He also missed work last month for 2 days because he got injured at work (hit in the face by a crowbar). and the Doctor had a note sent to them stating he could not come into work for at least 2 days . Since then they have been treating him badly and making him do things that are not even part of his job title. Am I wrong for thinking they are stupid? Can someone please help me out with this. We are new to Minnesota so we arent really sure what the laws are here. But I believe getting fired for missing work because of a Emergency Room visit for our child sounds like wrongful termination.
    Could someone please give me/us some advice here?

  • Jennifer Erickson
    June 8, 2015, 4:39 am

    June 7, 2015
    My husband has worked for this large well known company for 29 years. Suddenly he got terminated, they told him the reason was because he made to many mistakes. I’m told the company only allows an employee to make three errors a year. Is this a justifiable and legal action by the employer? I mean we’re all human and humans make mistakes. Is it legal for an employer to terminate the highest pay employee and hire another at a lesser pay? This just doesn’t seem right. Is there anything my husband should have in writing or documents should he decided to sue this company?

  • M.
    June 5, 2015, 10:33 pm

    Is it legal to be threatened with termination by homecare agency for not accepting a shift scheduled by ageny,where the Nurse was NOT informed/scheduled/agreed to cover that shift?

    I was scheduled for 12 hr shift, that client did not want my services, when i was informed of this I was told they had 8 hr shift available I refused, but agreed if another 12 hr shift available on same schedule would be interested. Supervisor said would check w staffing and let me know. I didn’t hear from th so i accepted shift w different agency. Then on day in question (today) received a text that I had been placed in an 8hr shift for those days for rest of month. and if I refused I would be terminated!! I scheduled with different agency because this agency on multiple occasions if your client not available, they claim they don’t have other and you don’t work/get paid. They have on multiple occasions double booked then when show up somewhere, they say “moved you to x” without informing notifying of change!

  • Bob
    May 8, 2015, 3:30 pm

    can you be fired for looking for other employment opportunities to better yourself in life by finding another job can you be fired for not stating that you were thinking about putting in your two week notice in because you were told the rumor mill has it that you were thinking about putting your 2 week notice in?

  • jane
    April 15, 2015, 11:56 am

    Im in NJ, I have worked for a Dr office for a yr now, I work a 40 hr week now my mgr told me I was not being fired but that they had no hours for me and not to come in any more. How can this be when they just hired a new girl two weeks ago and she has to be here on trial for 90 days before she is permit?
    Is this legal?

  • yesenia
    March 25, 2015, 7:17 am

    I was a hard worker and when ever they called me in to work,i went. I worked in McDonald’s and i was terminated for not smiling. I have a hard time smilling, it doesn’t come naturaly to me and one day when i was in the back booth in the drive through,taking orders and recieving the money my boss ordered food,this was the first time i saw him,and he got really mad just because i was not smilling and like i already had a write up for not smilling enough the next day he send someone to fire me. And before i left he told me “Well I hope you can find a job where you dont have to smille” and im sure his boss told him to say that. I don’t know if it’s ilegal to fire someone for not smilling enough, i really hope it is because i felt devastaded and i would like justice because i feel like what he did was wrong and know i have to put in all my job appications that i have been terminated and being 18 thats not good.

  • yesenia
    March 25, 2015, 7:10 am

    I worked in McDonald’s and i was terminated for not smiling. I have a hard time smilling, it doesn’t come naturaly to me and one day when i was in the back booth in the drive through,taking orders and recieving the money my boss ordered food,this was the first time i saw him,and he got really mad just because i was not smilling and like i already had a write up for not smilling enough the next day he send someone to fire me. And before i left he told me “Well I hope you can find a job where you dont have to smille” and im sure his boss told him to say that.

  • Matthew Montey
    March 19, 2015, 4:04 pm

    I worked off the books as a security officer for Best Western Plus. I was frequently paid late, was called in early and received the same pay as a normal shift on several occasions, was paid late every week for the last month of my employment to the point that I did not have the funds to make it in to work, informed my employer of this and was immediately fired “for the best interest of the company”. Do I have legitimate lawsuit for this?

  • Justin
    January 28, 2015, 3:19 am

    One week ago, I was terminated from my employment as an R&D technician for an environmental engineering firm, two days after officially filing bankruptcy.
    My employer knew of the filing, and I was informed of my termination on Wednesday afternoon and escorted from the building.
    Is it legal to fire an employee for filing bankruptcy?

  • dalerice Lewis
    January 2, 2015, 7:35 pm

    I was working for a hospital and a lead supervisor assault me I reported it and at the end of the week i was fired in 2007. Now its 2014 and i was working in the OR room for surgery and the person i was working with up and left early, he started taking cleaning supplies back down stairs for the end
    Of the shift. Well when he came back up they meaning
    The nurses had called for two rooms to be clean. Which he wasn’t there when they called out for them to get clean. So when he came up i was just about finish with the other room. So i told him he could make the bed because I had did everything else. So he said I’ll do the next room and i said ill go there you can make the bed.
    So i went to the other room and when i started cleaning up i looked for him and he was gone he up and left. So i clean the room like the doctor ask me too. But when i went down stairs i told a supervisor what had happen and he said we will talk to him. Well when i went on Xmas break i was fired again. Wow can they do that again . They call my staffing company and said terminated her contract. Reason was she can’t get along with staff, but when i ask for an copy.she told me no.

  • Thomas
    November 25, 2014, 10:14 pm

    I was a supervisor near a man that was injured I had no write up in 17 yrs now today I was terminated does it sound like wrongful termination

  • susheel kuma yadav
    November 17, 2014, 9:41 am

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am working Tupperware pvt ltd Dehradun this is US based company past two years i am working this company .

    Suddenly plant head saying your performance not good due to that you must look new job for you , company take old employee in my place .

    Please advise how to came out this situation because i can not leave job because i 20lack home loan.

    if they fire me then company pay some money or not , if i am going labor court i can get some benefit or not.

    Please advise .


  • Nicole
    August 19, 2014, 11:34 pm

    I am wondering if I even have a case. A former employer terminated me after having too many absences due to migraines. I had an FMLA intermittent leave form on file. It had expired and the hr woman said I was taking advantage of it and would not accept a new one for 6 months. The shift I worked before being let go, I left early. On my lunch break I passed out in the parking lot near my car. I was in severe pain and had told them more than an hour earlier that I needed to go take my medications. They told me I had to wait for my schedule break. I ended up calling my daughters to come get me and take me to the ER. I went into the place I worked and informed both a manager and my supervisor that I was going to the ER. They both said OK and seemed to be understanding. The next time I was scheduled to work I was terminated within minutes of clocking in. My problem is, this was in 2010. Is it too late to do anything?

  • Kevelyn kaiser
    May 8, 2014, 7:01 pm

    I worked for a large Coorporation, and injured myself while on the job training- had a workmans comp claim- everything was fine when I returned to work. Took aproximatly 3 random days off between February March and April due to Anxiety. And 3 consecutive days the first part of May, a weds thurs& friday. The following Monday my manager has a one-on-one meeting and says there has been a workforce reduction, and my job has been eliminated. That Wednesday, my position I see advertised on the job sites. I have my emails to my manager about why I needed the 3 days off due to my anxiety. And he did comment to other employees it was because I had anxiety. Can I do anything? Or just chalk it up as an at will termination because I was a liability to the company?
    Kevelyn Kaiser

  • mike
    May 1, 2014, 5:00 am

    I think that this at will is B.S. because if you have a manger that doesn’t like you but you do your job get reviews that say you exceed company standards but only get a 20 cent out of 50 cent total for a raise,if you feel you were wrongly terminated you call the state of Minnesota and they tell you they can’t and won’t help you. I think it is pretty sad. I hope someone from the state of Mn. contacts me about this.

  • Cassandra
    February 14, 2014, 12:11 am

    I was let go at my job today and they wouldn’t give me a clear reason as to why. I have no wright ups on my work record and this is the first time I have ever had this happen since I started working at the age of 15. Now my question is, if they fired me for missing work because my some was extremely sick and I had notes from the emergency room and the Drs that he couldn’t go back to daycare would that be considered wrongful termination? I’m a single mom with one son who’s 2 years old. Please help.

  • L
    January 1, 2014, 1:26 am


    I was hired a contractor for 5 years at a major worldwide biopharmaceutical company in California. California is an “at-will” employment state. I was a contractror in 4 seperate contracts in the same department doing the same work from 2007-2013. I endured much stress and abuse from employees due to a former manager who returned as a contract employee spreading gossip. I was hounded by my boss about being at my desk at certain times, and he gave me many verbal and written “spankings” about it. I explained to him in one conversation that as a contractor, there is a certain amount of freedom allowed as to HOW a person conducts their work, as long as deadlines are met.

    That didn’t seem to phase him, he continued to basically harass me about every minute-10 minutes I was late, give me impossible wordloads, then raise issues to management in emails when the impossible workload fell short. I felt it coming when he asked me to work over the Christmas shut down, and I committed, then on Saturday night at 9pm, he called me and told me I was fired and he couldn’t give me any details. It added insult to injury that I had planned my entire week to work remotely and then suddenly I was fired.

    My question is, is there a case for harassment? The only Sexual harrassment was a “freudian slip” and inappropriate glances to which there were no witnesses.

    More importantly, is there a case for misclassification of employment over those many years? Perhaps I was misclassified as a contractor when I should have been a full time employee receiving benefits and paid vactation/time off? It seems like an abuse of classifying employees for that length of time, but what are the legal implications?

    In the end, I am left with no reference from my most significant long-term job completely disparaged, and frankly I’ve been too depressed I think to do much. It will be a year tomorrow and I am still unemployed and discouraged. There were other family crises that contributed my emotional state, but I believe much of it stems from this seeming “waste” of 5 years of invaluable experience.

  • shauna
    December 3, 2013, 4:18 am

    Hi. My Name It’s Shauna. I WOrk For A Towing Dispatch Company THat All Of A Sudden Took Me Off The Schedule. I Complained To The Manager That This Guy Was Saying Derogatory Things Behind My Back While I Was,In The Other Office, While He SaT At The Other Computer. Which Is Behind Me.The Other Dispatcher Asked Me If My Husband Was African American And I Said Yes. After This, The Tow truck Driver Would Whisper The N Word, Several Times. Directed At Me. Not Only Did I Report It, But I Reported It 3 Times By Verbal Communication And By Email.
    This Went On, Also This Same Tow Truck Driver Would Berate Me Over The Radio, Calling Me Dumb And Stupid.
    I Had A Dispatcher That Was Harassing Me, Will Tell You In Depth When I Talk To You.
    I Sent An Email About That Yesterday And Felt Like That This Was The Cause Of Why I Was Taken Off The Schedule. Can Someone Please, Help? My Phone Number Is 7639235402. thanks

  • Carlos Amezcua
    June 14, 2013, 3:09 am

    Avionte staffing software gave me a final performance warning without a previous verbal or written warning. They have me a two week period to improve my performance with no action plan and two days later they let me go because “it was not a good fir”. Furthermore, they promoted a white female who happens to be friends with the HR manager, within a month and who has no
    experience about the job and has no degree. I have worked in the HR field for over twelve years and have a bachelor’s degree.

  • Carlos Amezcua
    June 14, 2013, 3:01 am

    Avionte staffing software gave me a final performance warning without a previous verbal or written warning. Gave me a two week period to improve with no action plan and two days later they let me fo because “it was not a good fir”. Furthermore, they promoted a white female who happens to be friends with the HR manager within a month and who has no
    experience about the job and has no degree.

  • Christine grey
    May 31, 2013, 10:09 am

    I was wrongfully terminated over a deep clean. My General manager was Jeff Larson fired me over not doing a deep clean. I got three write ups and I was terminated. A number of employees still working there have gotten more than three write ups and they still have their job. I think I was being retaliated against and was wrongfully terminated for other personal reasons. Please contact me at 651 329 5569. Sincerely,
    Christine Grey

  • Rhonda L. Jenkin
    May 23, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Good morning, I need help and information regarding a wrongful termination. I feel targeted as the situation at work had become truly hostile (where I was concerned). The reason for termination was that I didn’t smile enough or wasn’t friendly enough with certain staff members (these are the 3 who had targeted me months ago). Is this cause enough for termination? Do I have just cause to file a case due to the awful and hostile work environment I was subjected to? Any help you can give on this matter is appreciated. Thank you

  • gary scott
    May 14, 2013, 6:51 pm

    i was recentll let go for my employment with a reason given, i am going thru some legal issues outside of work and have been accused of NON work related offenses, but i have not yet gone to trail and had my day in court to prove these accusations to be untrue….can this be the basis for my termination? can i be denied unemployment compensation if this is the reason i was let go? It never effected my job.. my accuser said to me that she would embarras me in this small town i moved into, she would get me fired from my job, and force me to loose everything…and if she ever seen me again she would put a bullet in my head…..

  • Andrew.Mukiibi
    February 26, 2013, 12:04 am

    I need have some questions regarding wrongful termination.

  • JIm
    December 31, 2012, 3:16 am

    Hello: Believe I may be fired for refusing to lie to a client (the truth did not contain any private or privileged information). I don’t wish to sue, but if I need to, is there any reasonable chance of either regaining my job, or a reasonably decent monetary award to enable my family and I to keep going until I can locate another position? Thank you.

  • Thompson Hall Santi Cerny & Dooley
    October 9, 2012, 6:45 pm


    Please contact us at (612) 466-0010 and schedule a meeting with one of our experienced wrongful termination lawyers.

  • Debra
    October 9, 2012, 2:32 am

    My husband is an independent contractor for a contractor of large pharmacy. He delivers medications from the pharmacy location to nursing homes in the for his employer, also a large company with several nationwide locations. Some of this work, such as a route are paid in a certain amount of pay. Others, such as his daytime stat deliveries are paid hourly. My husband has worked for the company for over 8 years. About 7 months ago, my husband decided to get laparascopic band surgery for weight loss as he has hypertension and diabetes and is morbidly obese. He told his boss at the time that he was planning to have surgery this October 19th. She never said that it would be a problem at the time, and she had plenty of notice. We went through many appointments for dietary visits, echo cardiograms, physicals, a weight loss for my husband of 20 lbs. to qualify etc. for the six months, and today, my husband’s employer told my husband that if he leaves for the surgery and required two week recovery after surgery, they may be “hiring” while he is gone and he may not have a job? We have worked so hard for this, and my husband’s future and health depends on his having this surgery. Do we have any recourse?

  • Mike
    April 20, 2012, 11:40 pm

    Looking to find out if what my employer did was right or if there is a case. I was involved in a wrongful termination case, (completely different situation) where the company I worked for hired an outside attorney to represent us. I spoke with the attorney on Thursday was on Vacation on Friday and on Monday morning was informed of an issue at a different site which reported up to me, but not an issue I had caused. On Tuesday morning my Manager said that he thought another former employee had created the issue. Three hours later I went to a meeting and was informed that it was a different meeting then I had thought and was terminated immediately. I understand that the other site reported to me, however I was the one that authorized the work order which led to the discovery of the issue. (why would I authorize a work order if I knew what the outcome was going to be?) There are too many details to list, but wondering if my Manager says he thinks someone else (who reported to me in the past) caused the issue and I could be discharged for it?

  • Thompson Hall Santi Cerny & Dooley
    April 4, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Scott, We recommend speaking with our experienced employment attorney, Shirley Chase, right away. Call us at (612) 466-0010 or send an email to admin@twincitiesfirm.com.

  • scott kadlec
    April 3, 2012, 10:20 pm

    I need to speak with an attorney regarding wrongful termination against my former employer. I believe I was wrongfully terminated and would like to know if I have a case. I was involved in a program the company started to decrease inefficiencies in the company and was encouraged to speak out in regards to what we thought was inefficient in our department. We were told that if we felt we could not go to our boss they gave us team members we could speak to. I then spoke out to another member (manager)of the team regarding a co-worker that happens to be my boss’ son. Less than 3 hours later that manager went in to my boss and named me by name to him and what I told him in confidence.I told him not to use my name as I feared retribution for it and her did it anyway. That night my boss told his son ( my co-worker) what was said before he even talked to me about it. That created hostility and a seriously uncomfortable work setting to say the least! My boss angerly told me I betratyed him and he can’t trust me anymore. I apologized over and over and he said we woukl get past it. 1 week later I was let go