can you be fired without cause in kentucky

Getting fired from a job is heartbreaking, stressful, and frightening. This is especially true if you did nothing wrong to deserve it. It might occur without warning and your employer may not give you a reason. The question is: do they have to? In Kentucky, you can be fired without cause because it is an “at-will employment” state. While there are exceptions to this rule, employers generally have the power to terminate employees whenever they see fit.

While most employees are at-will workers, there are important exceptions. The dedicated Kentucky employment lawyers at Abney Law help you understand at-will employment and whether you were wrongfully terminated.

Understanding At-Will Employment

Kentucky is an at-will employment state, as many are. This means that employees can generally be fired for any reason, even if it seems unfair. An employer does not generally have to state the reason you are fired, but may terminate you at any time. This could mean that years of hard work and quality service still result in your termination. 

Many employees face termination at some point in their long career. In most situations, this is completely permissible. However, there are important exceptions to this general rule.

Examples of At-Will Employment Termination

Common examples of permissible termination under the at-will employment law include, but are not limited to:

  • Your employer wants to reduce its total number of employees
  • You make more than other employees and the company wants to reduce its budget
  • You made a mistake at work, even if you have had years of stellar service
  • The employer decides your personality is not a good fit for the team
  • Your project or department is no longer needed
  • Your manager is unhappy with your performance, even without stating direct reasons

Termination under these circumstances can feel harsh and even deeply unfair. It may still be permissible because of Kentucky’s laws. 

Employment Contracts and For Cause Termination

While at-will employment is the default for most Kentucky employees, an employee may have an employment contract that modifies this. Employees and employers are free to mutually agree to other employment terms, including the requirement that an employee only be terminated “for cause.”

For cause employment requires the employer to justify why they are terminating the employee. Conditions can vary, but examples of permissible reasons to terminate for cause employees might include:

  • Intentional wrongdoing
  • Consistently poor performance
  • Theft, fraud, or other illegal activity
  • Failure to obey instructions or direct insubordination
  • Repeated absences from work
  • Dishonesty
  • Intoxication at work
  • Breach of health or safety regulations

These and other issues may justify termination, but the employer must describe its reasoning if the employee is protected. A qualified employment law attorney can help you determine if you are at-will or a for cause employee.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuits in Kentucky

You may have been wrongfully terminated without cause in several situations. First, if you were a for cause employee, you may have been unjustifiably fired. If you are an at-will employee, there are still several important exceptions to the general rule.

Employers may not fire at-will employees for illegal reasons such as:

  • Discriminating based on race, color, sex, gender identity, nationality, and other protected traits
  • Your firing violates the Kentucky public policy exception
  • Use of the Family Medical Leave Act or other legal time off of work
  • As retaliation for reporting misconduct, legal violations, or harassment
  • When the firing breaches your employment contract
  • For pursuing a valid workers’ compensation claim
  • As a result of whistleblowing

Protect Your Rights Against Wrongful Termination

Many employees can be fired without cause in Kentucky. At-will employment laws give employers wide latitude to decide why and when to fire someone. However, you may fall within an exception and have the right to substantial compensation when your rights are violated. Let the skilled employment law attorneys at Abney Law analyze your case and consider your unique situation. Contact us today for a consultation of your case.