Alabama’s “Employment at Will” Law

In the United States, employees without a written contract for employment can be terminated at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. These individuals are employed “at will”. If an employer decides to fire you, you have very limited legal rights to fight your termination. The old views that employers and employees are on equal footing in terms of bargaining power – that each can enter and exit on a whim – are fortunately fading in much of the country. The courts and legislatures in several states have begun to recognize that employers have a distinct advantage over the worker – both structurally and economically. These states have adopted judicial exceptions to the rule in an effort to prevent wrongful terminations. Unfortunately, Alabama maintains one of the strictest set of at-will employment laws in the country. These laws severely limit the rights of the Alabama worker leaving them with very limited bargaining power and no guarantees of a reasonable condition for termination.

How does this law affect Austal workers?

  • It allows Austal to terminate employees for any reason, as long as Federal Laws are not violated.
  • It allows Austal to take away or change any benefit, including pay—healthcare—401k, without notice.
  • It allows Austal to change or ignore its’ own handbook and other policies, without notification.
  • It allows Austal to maximize its favoritism standard—treat one worker one way and another worker differently
  • It allows Austal to completely disregard any input from you.
  • It allows Austal to dictate all policies and to treat you with disrespect.

Employees belonging to trade unions, however, enjoy collective bargaining agreements that typically require just cause for terminations, as well procedures for arbitrating employee grievances. Additionally, there are still numerous laws with which an Alabama business must comply in relation to employee rights. The following is a brief outline of commonly applied federal laws that supersede the Alabama state law:

  • Alabama employees are protected from discrimination based on race, gender, age (over 40), religion, national origin and disability.
  • Retaliation by the employer for participating in protected activity; i.e., reporting or complaining about discrimination, health and safety violations, a work-related injury, belonging to and/or supporting a labor union (Alabama employees who sign a union authorization card are protected from retaliation of their support in forming a union under the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA]. You can find more information on this site in the Know Your Rights Section under National Labor Relations Act ).
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Wage and hour laws that protect an employee’s rights to minimum wage, OT pay and working conditions.
  • Required time off from work or leave to attend to family and/or medical issues (you can find out more information about this in the Know Your Rights Section under Family Medical Leave Act).

For more information, contact the Mobile Metal Trades Council at 251-434-8254.



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