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Is Michigan an at-will employment state?

When relationships between Michigan employers and employees go bad, things can escalate in a very short period of time. What once was a healthy relationship can turn into litigation quickly for any number of reasons.

Recently, for example, this blog discussed potential legal claims that can be filed against employers for wrongful discharge. These claims often involve allegations that the employer made certain representations at the time the employee was fired.

However, it is important to understand that only certain kinds of allegations will support a wrongful discharge claim. Generally, employers can fire an employee for any reason, whether it be a good reason, bad reason or no reason. This is because employment in Michigan is considered to be at-will. Accordingly, an employee typically will not succeed if he or she sues an employer for wrongful discharge in an at-will employment situation, unless other circumstances are present.

For example, if the employee had an employment contract, the employee may then have an expectation of employment. Thus, this type of situation may not be at-will employment, and the employee can sue on the contract.

Even without a contract, employees can bring employment law cases if they allege the employer engaged in discrimination. The law generally protects certain classes of individuals from discrimination. Accordingly, if a person is in a protected class, including race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability or age, the employee may have a cause of action if he or she can prove the termination was due to discrimination.

Ultimately, employers should understand the potential areas of liability when dealing with employees. By doing so, employers can protect themselves from allegations of wrongdoing.

Source:, "Frequently asked employment questions," accessed on Dec. 27, 2015

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