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Is it Legal to Terminate an Employee Without Notice in Wisconsin?

When you quit your job in Wisconsin, you may give your employer a two-week notice out of respect so they have time to find a replacement. But what you may not know is that employers do not have to give you that same courtesy.

Employment laws can be complicated, but you should know that all 50 states recognize at-will employment (although many states have some exceptions). What that means is that neither you or your employer have a legally binding relationship with the other party. Unless there is a contract in place, you can quit your job at any time, without notice. Likewise, your employer can choose to terminate your employment at any time. It is not illegal for your employer to terminate your employment on the spot, without any notice.

What the Law Says

Under Wisconsin law, unless an employee is specifically contracted to provide services for a company for an agreed-upon amount of time, an employer does not have to give any notice or reason to terminate an employee. However, it is important for employers to avoid making promises, whether verbal or written in nature, as these could imply a contract. In fact, the Wisconsin courts have made rulings to the effect that statements and procedures contained in an employee handbook or other type of manual may actually create an employment contract. It may be considered a promise, for example, if a prospective employee is induced to give up something of value, such as relocating or leaving their current job.

When Termination May be Illegal

However, that’s not to say that all terminations are legal. A person can be wrongfully terminated, but the termination in this case has to be for an illegal reason, such as discrimination. Under federal law, a person cannot be terminated for a reason that is solely based on their protective class, such as ethnicity, race, gender, pregnancy status, marital status, sexual orientation, age (if over 40), religion, or disability. A person also cannot be terminated as a form of retaliation for filing a claim against the employer or reporting the employer’s wrongdoing to the public.

Also, an employee cannot be fired for refusing to perform illegal or unsafe activities. For example, an employee cannot be terminated for refusing to have sex with their supervisor. If an employee refuses to work on the roof of a building because their boss refuses to provide them with proper safety equipment, then they cannot be fired for that, either.

Contact Us Today

Employment laws can be complicated and each state has different policies. Whether you are an employer or employee, it is a good idea to be aware of the laws that affect you so you can avoid legal issues.

The employment law attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. have the experience, knowledge, and resources to effectively handle employee termination and other labor law cases. Schedule a consultation with our office today by calling (608) 784-8310 or by email.

Published February 21, 2022
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