Can an Employer Fire you without Telling you why

“You are fired!”

As you wend your way homeward, you feel devastated, but suddenly realize your employer did not tell you why. You know that dismissal from any job can affect your entire future, as well as your life, in an adverse manner. 

“Why did your employer fire you?” you wonder.

You see your role on the job as having been exemplary, above employee reprimand or reproach. Dismissal seems ludicrous, at least to you. You are right. In this instance, it is just that. What adds to the injustice is the reality that you received no warning and your employer did not reveal why dismissal was necessary.

“In some work environments, an employee can be fired quickly with no explanation for supposed dereliction of duty. Other companies may have the policy of submitting warnings prior to dismissal. Certain offenses could merit a suspension from work.”

According to, employees still have rights.

“Even during an investigation into an alleged wrongdoing, the suspected employee has rights. First, the employee has the right to full disclosure of the allegations and any evidence regarding them. Prior to the suspension, the employee should have the ability to know the offense for which they are being accused and have the right to defend themselves in front of their superiors.”

One of the advantages to being an employer, instead of an employee, is that you can fire anyone, at any time, without telling him or her why.

There are times when being fired is an injustice; for instance, if employers play the role of dictators. ‘Godlike’ in some way, they act as ‘controllers’ who take pleasure in hurting employees, especially those who are the most vulnerable. That does not make it right, or fair, much less make it easier to accept dismissal graciously.

Injustices happen.

Dismissal can be for many reasons that are not employee performance related. At times, dismissal may be the result of sudden company cutbacks due to financial concerns, loss of employment contracts, union issues or other company concerns.

Regardless of the reason, dismissal can come as a shock, be difficult to comprehend or understand. For example, a company accepts a new union contract, ‘stipulating’ the sole reason for dismissal is based upon seniority, which results in the firing of three young, professional women. They all appear to be highly specialized, well-motivated, aspiring, proactive employees with excellent work ethics and unlimited potential.

Three older women recently fired take over their positions, immediately. One of the older women is a known alcoholic, the second an elderly woman was caught sleeping on the job and the third is an older, former dress store owner, a flashy dresser, a veritable ‘fashion plate’ who dresses inappropriately for her job.    

The three young women, not given any explanation, receive a dismissal letter and an apology from the employer, but no explanation other than ‘lack of seniority’. To them, this does not appear to be a just cause for dismissal. It is not. A professional, management team member resigns his position because of the employment dismissal ‘injustice’. His resignation is accepted.

Because this is a union contract, originally drawn up in an attempt to protect senior workers, there is no feasible route of appeal for the young women. Is legal action the appropriate route for them to take?

Interestingly, in this particular scenario, it is several months later that the young professional women learn the reason for their dismissal. By the end of the union contract, the three elderly women are no longer with the company.

The new union contract, now revised, does not allow employment injustice of this kind.       

Perhaps the major injustice in this case, lies in the inappropriate communication in the initial employer-employee relationship.

One must suggest that in any similar situation, employees ‘right to know’, or to be ‘informed’ is vital. Letters of reference may help the dismissed employees, but having to explain to another potential employer, the reason for dismissal without a proper explanation may not appear credible.

“No one fires employees based on seniority alone,” says a potential employer. “Who are you trying to kid?”

Life happens and yes, an employer can fire you without telling you why, but should not do so, particularly in this era.

Wrongful dismissal litigation can be expensive and may not be worth pursuing, in some situations. On the other hand, personal entitlement to lost income may be worth pursuing. Seeking advice for an unemployment office is generally advisable in terms of wrongful dismissal.