Many people I encounter think that Nevada employers need to have a good reason to fire you, but that simply is not true. The truth is they just need to not have a “bad reason” to fire you. “At-will employment” is an employment relationship in which you may fire your employee at any time for any reason and your employee may resign at any time for any reason. This is the default employment relationship in Nevada, absent an employment contract with specific terms.
In an at-will employment position, you can quit whenever you want without giving notice, just like your employer can fire you whenever it wants (subject to some limitations discussed below) without notice. It seems unfair when you’re on the wrong end of an arbitrary termination, but it doesn’t seem unfair when you quit your job to get higher pay somewhere else. If you were subject to an employment contract, you could be denied the opportunity to take that higher paying job or you could theoretically owe money to your employer for the costs incurred by you breaking your contract. So I always tell people to be careful what you wish for – employment contracts aren’t always everything they’re cracked up to be.
Nevada has some exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, however, that can potentially protect you: implied contracts and public policy exceptions. Implied contracts arise when your employer, through written or oral communications, indicates to you that your job is secure in some way. These types of implied contracts can be found in a variety of circumstances, such as when an employer states that you will only be fired for just cause, if the employee handbook includes a finite list of reasons for which you can be terminated, or if your employer pledges to only terminate you after progressive discipline is enacted.
There are also federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws that prohibit adverse action based on any legally protected classification. Protected classes are broadly defined to include, race, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military service, and more.
Public policy exceptions are situations where a court determines that Nevada has a strong interest in stopping someone from being fired for some act. Reporting illegal behavior, refusing to violate the law, or filing a worker’s compensation claim are a few of these exceptions. If you think you were fired illegally, talk to a Nevada employment attorney. An attorney can help you sort through the facts and assess the strength of your claim. Whether you want to try to get your job back, negotiate a severance package, or sue your employer in court, an attorney can walk you through your options and help you decide how best to proceed.
Tanika M. Capers, Esq.