Employees in Arizona are mainly employed at will, meaning their boss can fire them without cause. However, employees in Arizona do have rights regarding termination. Arizona employers cannot break state laws or fail to follow their own written policies when firing employees, and if they sign an employment contract they cannot fire employees for reasons others than those stated in the contract.
At Will Employment
In Arizona, employment is considered to be at will unless the employee and employer sign an employment contract. If there is no employment contract, the employer may fire the employee for any reason whatsoever that is not explicitly prohibited by law. The employer does not have to provide the employee with a specific reason. If the employee works under contract, however, the employer may only fire him for reasons specified in the contract.
Freedom From Retaliation
Employees in Arizona have the right to file grievances without fear of retaliation. Specifically, employees have the right to report concerns about workplace safety, discrimination or sexual harassment without fear of being fired as a result of filing the claim. If an employee believes he was fired in retaliation for filing a grievance, he should contact an attorney who specializes in employment law to determine whether he has a valid wrongful termination case.
Other Wrongful Terminations
Arizona employers may not fire employees because they requested or took Family Medical Leave Act time. Most employees qualify for FMLA if they work for over 1,260 hours over the course of 12 months. Employees also cannot be fired for refusing to break laws; in addition, employers cannot fire them in defiance of the employer's written policies. Finally, employers cannot fire employees based on illegal discrimination such as race, biological sex, religion, national origin, advanced age or disability (including pregnancy). As of 2011, it is legal for Arizona employers to fire employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Although Arizona law does not require employers to provide employee handbooks, many employers do so to cut down on confusion and protect themselves from wrongful termination lawsuits. Employee handbooks may spell out prohibited behaviors punishable by termination or provide steps employers must take prior to dismissing an employee. The employer must follow the policies in the employee handbook regarding termination and other employment issues.