Employers have a great deal of leeway to fire employees in Minnesota, but they can’t simply do whatever they want. State laws do put some restrictions on how and when an employee can be fired, and we’ll discuss these in greater detail in today’s post.

Firings From Non-Contractual Employment

If you don’t have a contract with your employer that outlines the terms and details of your employment, then you are considered to be an “at will” employee. For the most part, this gives an employer the right to let you go at any time and for any reason that is not illegal.

What reasons are illegal? The big one is discrimination. Both state and federal law protect you from being fired on the basis of your race, religious beliefs, gender, age, sexual orientation or marital status. People with disabilities are also protected from discrimination, though some reasonable limitations are allowed in jobs where the disability would make it too difficult to perform the required duties and there isn’t a way to make a reasonable accommodation.

Of course, proving discrimination can be a difficult thing. The only way you’ll have a slam-dunk case is if someone in a supervisory position made a clearly discriminatory statement to you. If you have to prove discrimination by way of circumstantial evidence, there is a basic standard called the “McDonnell-Douglas Test” that most courts look at. The test looks at four conditions: whether you are a member of a protected class, whether you possessed the requisite education and training for the job, whether the employer took adverse action (firing is one example of “adverse action”), and whether your replacement on the job was not a member of your protected class. If you can meet three of these four requirements, you may have a case for discrimination.

There are a handful of other circumstances under which an “at will” employee is protected from a wrongful firing. State law makes clear that you cannot be fired in retaliation for being a “whistleblower,” or in other words for reporting violations of the law in the workplace. You also cannot be fired for being called to jury duty. State statute 181.932 provides further detail on these legal protections.

Employees With Contracts

If you have a contract with an employer that spells out specific requirements for a termination, then the employer must demonstrably meet these requirements.

Usually, contracts are offered for professional-level salaried positions that are competitive and have a relatively small pool of qualified candidates to draw from. However, Minnesota state law also recognizes certain types of employee manuals or guidebooks as implied contracts, if these materials spell out specific terms under which the employee may be removed from their job. Minnesota was actually a pioneer in getting employee manuals recognized as implied contractual agreements nationally, as the first major case of this nature in the country (Pine River State Bank v. Metille) was heard here!

The law has developed such over the years that simply consenting to work under the terms of an employee handbook may be seen by the court as a contractual situation, depending on what terms the handbook contains.

What Are My Legal Rights If I’m Fired?

One positive for workers in the “at will” arrangement is that you are not required to give any advance notice to quit your job. Many people choose to give one or two weeks notice as a courtesy, but this is not mandatory in any way.

Your full remaining owed wages need to have been paid no later than 20 days from your termination regardless of any other circumstances. Once you formally request your final pay, however, the employer must provide it within 24 hours. Unpaid benefits are due within 30 days of termination. If you make a request in writing, the employer is also legally obligated to provide a truthful reason for the termination within 10 days of receiving your request.

Do you have any further questions about your legal rights after being fired? Do you think you might have been a victim of discrimination, retaliation or breach of contract? Contact us to learn how our experienced legal team can help you.