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Wrongful termination and at-will employment

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2024 | Wrongful Termination

Proving wrongful termination can be quite difficult. One aspect of the employment laws in Hawaii complicates things even further.

Hawaii is an at-will state. Many people believe this means there is no opportunity to claim wrongful termination in the state, but that is incorrect.

At-will employment explained

The at-will employment doctrine stipulates that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. There can be no reason at all. The only exceptions are if there is a contract in place, a collective bargaining agreement or the termination violates the law. This flexibility provides a degree of freedom for both parties, but it can impact wrongful termination claims.

Wrongful termination defined

Wrongful termination comes into play when the dismissal of an employee is for reasons that violate employment laws or public policy. Employers generally have the discretion to terminate employment. However, they cannot do so for discriminatory reasons. Wrongful termination can also occur if it is a result of an employee asserting their legal rights.

If there is a contractual agreement in place, employees and employers must follow the terms within that agreement. Termination must adhere to the specified conditions within the contract.

Employees and employers must understand the intricacies of at-will employment and wrongful termination. Employers must be aware of the legal parameters within which they can terminate employees. Employees need to comprehend their rights and recognize when termination crosses the line into wrongful territory. Both must know the presence of at-will employment does not erase the potential for wrongful termination.