No, generally firing an employee without a warning is not considered illegal. However, it mainly depends on the type of employment contract you signed with the employer. Most employees are considered at will employees and in this case the employer can terminate you without any warning as long as it is not illegal. Your employer does not need a good cause to fire you. 

At-will employees can also quit anytime without a reason and with or without notice . The employers can also fire without any reason for an at-will employment. But, states can vary on the proper procedure of being terminated from employment and therefore it is crucial to research the regulations in your local state. The state may provide for additional protections for an employee who got fired without any warning. 

However, if there is a written employment contract that provides job security, it may not be considered an at-will employment. Therefore, the employer must abide by the terms specifically stated in the contract. If the contract states that an employee cannot be fired without a warning, it would be illegal to do so. 

The terms of the contract must be honored by both parties. Keep in mind there can also be a valid oral contract if the employer promised orally to the employee but did not get a chance to state it in writing. States vary in terms of what is considered a valid oral contract and would be useful to reach out to an employment lawyer to find the laws in your local state. 

Did the Employer Act in Good Faith and Fair Dealing?

The courts consider these factors that could indicate there has been a breach of good faith and fair dealing:

  • Firing or transferring the employee to avoid them from collecting sales commissions; 
  • Misleading employees about opportunities in promotions and about wage increases;  
  • Covering up the real reason for firing an employee, when that reason was to hire someone else who will work for less pay; and 
  • Not fully informing the employee about the possible negative aspects of the job. 

However, it is not necessary for your state to recognize these factors for a breach in good faith and fair dealing for an at-will employment.

Does The Firing Without Warning Show Any Discrimination or Violations of Public Policy?

Firing any employee in a way that violates the public policy or is discriminatory is illegal. Most states have outlined the laws that clearly indicate a violation of public policy. Terminating someone on these may give rise to a possible lawsuit for wrongful termination. Some of these factors include:

  • Failure to pay the employee rightfully earned commissions and accrued vacation pay;  
  • Terminating an employee for taking the necessary time off from work to serve on a jury, to vote, and to serve in the military and; 
  • Disclosing to the authorities about a wrongdoing that is harmful to the public (whistle- blowers are provided protection). 

Furthermore, if there is any indication that you have been fired due to your race, religion, color, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, pregnancy or disability you will have a strong case against the employer for discrimination in the workplace. 

Did the Firing Occur Due to Retaliation or Whistle-blowing?

It is considered illegal to fire an employee for retaliation and whistle-blowing. Your employer cannot fire you for reporting either internally or to an outside agency about the misconduct happening in the workplace (for example, issues with health or safety hazards and harassment). 

Additionally, whistleblowers are also protected and cannot be fired for reporting about dangerous activities occurring in the workplace, such as violations of disposal of toxic chemicals or shareholder fraud. If you believe you have been fired for either of those reasons you can have a claim for wrongful termination against your employer. 

What Are Some Warning Signs of Termination?

In general, these can vary across all employment and can depend on the type of work culture practiced within your workplace. However, here are some cautionary signals to look out for to avoid termination at work:

  • The boss is not completely satisfied with the work and is expressly saying that;  
  • Breaking a company rule and getting disciplined for it through written warnings;  
  • Being excluded from meetings and projects that usually are handled by you;  
  • Demoted from your responsibilities and receive less work; 
  • One on one meetings with the boss are getting canceled more frequently and; 
  • Not meeting the goals and expectations of the role. 

Noticing any of these warning signs can help you in getting more proactive about your position and work towards getting better results at the workplace. 

Should I Hire an Employment Lawyer if I’ve Been Fired Without Warning?

If you believe that you were fired illegally, it may be useful to consider the type of contract you had with your employer. This can guide in determining if there has been a wrongful termination. Furthermore, if there is any indication of an illegal reason by the employer for justifying the termination, seeking an employment lawyer will assist you in developing a case against the employer.