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Is Indiana an Employment At-Will State?

Sep 14, 2020 | Employment Law


Indiana is a wonderful place to live in. Close to 7 million people call Indiana home, with the vast majority of citizens employed somewhere in the state.

What happens when you lose a job in Indiana? Do you have the right to file a claim for wrongful termination? Is Indiana an employment-at-will state?

Indiana is one of many “at-will” states in the country in terms of employment. This presents the employer with the power to terminate a contract for almost any reason. However, terminated workers still have rights and may be able to take legal action if they were fired unjustly.

What Is an At-Will Employment State?

Indiana is one of many employment-at-will states in the U.S. What that means is that an employer may generally fire an employee at any time, and for any reason. However, there are a number of exceptions to the rule.

For example, in any union job or situation where you are under contract, there are guidelines the employer needs to follow for a legal firing. If they don’t respect those guidelines, you may have enough weight to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Both federal and state laws protect collective bargaining agreements. Consequently, workers who are under a collective bargaining agreement have much more power in wrongful termination lawsuits compared to workers who are in a traditional “at-will” contract. 

There are many examples where employees were fired with little to no reason given. This is often perfectly legal, since Indiana is an “at-will” state. Nonetheless, an employer cannot terminate a worker for reasons that are considered illegal (i.e., discrimination).

Exceptions to “At-Will” Terminations

As we mentioned, Indiana is an “at-will” state, which allows most employers to terminate employees with little to no reason, and at any time. The primary exceptions to this are union jobs or any other job agreement that is under a collective bargaining agreement.

However, every job in the state is protected from terminations that are the result of retaliation or discipline. For example, an employer may not fire you if you are a whistleblower reporting unsafe working conditions. If that is your situation, you likely have a valid wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Here are the other primary exceptions to “at-will” terminations in Indiana:

  •     Discrimination: You cannot lose a job because of your race, age, sex, color, national origin, religion, disability, or pregnancy. Firings because of discrimination are the basis for many wrongful termination lawsuits in the United States.
  •     Retaliation: An employer is not allowed to fire you if they are doing so because of retaliation. For example, an employer may not terminate you because you are a whistleblower reporting unsafe working procedures.
  •     Harassment: Harassment is not only a criminal offense but also a factor in many wrongful termination lawsuits that are filed each year. If you are threatened or harassed at your place of employment, especially to quit or are fired, you should speak to a wrongful termination lawyer.
  •     Paid Leave: Paid leave is a benefit that some workers in Indiana get to enjoy as part of their contract. Consequently, an employer cannot fire you because you want to use paid leave or maternity leave, or take leave for a personal matter.
  •     Employment Agreements: Workers have rights for a reason. Therefore, an employer that fires a worker in violation of the terms of their employment contract does so illegally.

Wrongful Termination vs. Regular Firings

Although many individuals believe that they were terminated for an illegitimate reason, in many situations, there is little that you can do unless you have solid proof that your employer violated one of the exceptions to the “at-will” hiring/firing agreement in Indiana.

Indiana “at-will” employer rights make it difficult for workers to receive justice for wrongful termination. However, there are ways to prove your case if the employer acted irresponsibly or cruelly.

The legal definition for wrongful termination is awfully specific—meaning that it’s not easy to prove in a court of law. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to seek legal counsel from experienced wrongful termination lawyers. They’ll be able to advise you on whether you have a valid case.

Protecting Employee Rights with Wrongful Termination Claims

The courts define wrongful termination as being fired for an illegal reason, which may involve the violation of federal anti-discrimination laws or breach of contract. However, Indiana is one of many states that deems employment “at-will.”

For this reason, it is not always straightforward to prove wrongful termination—because the state allows employers to fire workers at any time, with little to no reason unless the worker has a contractual agreement with the company.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated from a job, contact Stewart & Stewart. We offer a free initial consultation and are happy to discuss the details of your case. We look forward to assisting you.


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