You get hired on as an at-will employee. Your employer explains that it’s very common and that all of the other employees have the same classification, but you still want to know what it means for you.
Essentially, “at-will employment” means both you and your employer have a lot of freedom regarding the nature of your business relationship. If you want to quit, you can do it whenever you want. You don’t have to provide a reason. If you do, it can be almost anything at all — it may be as simple as not enjoying the job anymore.
The same thing is true for your employer, though. They can fire you whenever they want. They do not have to give you a warning first. They don’t have to explain the decision. They don’t have to give you a reason. They may just want to hire someone else.
The alternative to at-will employment is to use a contract. When this is done, it provides you with extra rules that have to be followed. You may be entitled to an advance notice before firing or a warning system, for instance. In return, you may have to give your employer a certain amount of notice before you quit or work until a specified date before leaving the job behind.
Of course, even if you are an at-will employee, that does not mean an employer can violate your rights when firing you. For instance, they can’t fire you because of your race, age, gender or religion. If this happens, you absolutely need to know all of the legal options you have, as it may qualify as a wrongful termination. Do not assume that at-will employment means you waive your fundamental rights.