What is Termination for Cause?

Reasons an Employee Can be Fired for Cause

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When an employee is terminated for cause they are fired from their job for a specific reason and are not always provided with advance notice or compensation.

What is Termination for Cause?

Reasons an employee could be terminated for cause include, but are not limited to, stealing, lying, failing a drug or alcohol test, falsifying records, embezzlement, insubordination, fraud, felonious conduct, disclosing private, confidential information or trade secrets, deliberately violating company policy or rules, and other serious misconduct related to your employment.

When you are terminated for cause the employer does not have to give you notice. The only time an employer is required to give notice in the case of mass layoffs or large plant or corporate closures per the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Otherwise, federal law assumes the default employment in the U.S., known as at-will employment.

Most company and even government employment contracts are created for an indefinite time period at-will. At-will employment gives the employer and employee the flexibility to terminate the relationships at any time for nearly any reason, so long as they are not discriminatory reasons such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. As a result, there is no federal law forcing an employer to give any sort of notice when terminating an employee.

Conviction of a crime or breach of a contract you have with your employer may also be grounds for termination for cause.

For cause termination is when an employee is fired on account of violating the terms of an employee contract by engaging in fraud, embezzlement, theft, willful misconduct, and more. Employers are not required to give any notice of termination in this case, but depending on the employment contract, severance pay or other compensation may still be owed to the employee, despite his or her wrongdoing.

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination, also known as wrongful dismissal is when an employee’s employment contract has been terminated for reasons that are illegal or breach the terms of said contract. Some examples of wrongful termination include discrimination, retaliation, refusal to commit or perform an illegal act, or breaching the contract or company handbook. 

If you feel that your termination was unfair or have not been treated according to the law or company policy, you can get assistance. You may be able to appeal the decision to terminate your employment. The US Department of Labor has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim. Here's more information on wrongful termination.

Your state labor department may also be able to assist, depending on state law and the circumstances.

In addition, local bar associations often have a referral service and may even have a hotline you can call to find an employment lawyer. Keep in mind that you will need to pay for an attorney's services or find one willing to provide counsel pro bono.

Termination for Cause and Unemployment

When you are terminated for cause you may not be eligible for unemployment compensation.

Variances in state laws and the gravity of the offense play a part in unemployment benefit eligibility. If you are not sure whether you're eligible for unemployment, check with your state unemployment office to determine your eligibility for unemployment compensation. 

Have a Question?

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about termination from employment, including reasons for getting fired, employee rights when you have been terminated, collecting unemployment, wrongful termination, saying goodbye to co-workers and more.

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