You go to work in Charleston every day confident that you the only way you could lose your job would be if you give your employer a reason to fire. So if you are approached out-of-the-blue with news that you are fired, your confusion is understandable. Can an employer really fire its employees for no good reason? Surprisingly, the answer to that question is yes, thanks to the at-will employment doctrine.
This legal principle states that companies can fire you for any reason (or no reason at all). The basis of this is that you work for your employer at your own will, and if you chose to leave to pursue another job, you could do so according to your own will. Therefore, the law affords this same privilege to your employer to retain or dismiss you at its will.
According to the West Virginia State Bar Practice Handbook, the state indeed follows the at-will employment doctrine. There are, however, certain exceptions to it. These include cases where you have an actual written contract in place with your employer (such agreements are typically referred to as “express contracts”). By agreeing to the terms of that contract, your employer consents to adhere to its stipulations as to when you can be fired, thus giving up the right to apply the at-will employment doctrine to you.
The same holds true if you have an implied contract. State courts typically view implied contracts as cases where an employer’s policies specifically state that you can only be fired under certain circumstances. Thus, you are lead to believe that adhering to those policies guarantees your job security.
Finally, the final exception to at-will employment are cases were your employer might be violating the law or public policy by firing you.