Official State of Iowa Website

Can My Employer Fire Me for Any Reason?

What is “at-will” employment?Icon of a question mark

Iowa is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that an employer can fire you without cause (a good reason) unless you have an agreement with your employer that says otherwise. This agreement may be one between you and your employer, or a collective bargaining agreement achieved through a union.

Are there any reasons an employer can’t fire an at-will employee?

While an employer does not need a good reason to fire you if you are an at-will employee, they can’t fire you (or fail to hire you or treat you differently) for certain discriminatory reasons. Examples include your race, gender, national origin, or religion.

Additionally, employers can’t fire you because you engaged in certain protected activities.

  • For more information, visit the People's Law Library page on Retaliation

In Iowa, there’s also a public policy exception to at-will employment. Under this exception, an employer can't fire a worker when:

  1. A clearly defined and well-recognized public policy exists that protects the employee's activity;
  2. The public policy would be undermined by the employee's firing;
  3. The employee engaged in the activity protecting the public policy and this activity was the reason the employer discharged the employee; and
  4. The employer had no overriding business justification for the discharge.

See Berry v. Liberty Holdings, 803 N.W.2d 106 (Iowa 2011). (Employers also can't fire contract employees in violation of public policy. See Ackerman v. State, 913 N.W.2d 610 (Iowa 2018)).

In Dorshkind v. Oak Park Place of Dubuque II, L.L.C., the Iowa Supreme Court gives examples of when the court has applied the public policy exception. Examples of when the court has applied the public policy exception to at-will employment include enforcing a statutory right, refusing to engage in illegal activity, and “whistleblowing.”

If you have an employment agreement, either individually or through a union, you may have additional protections.

Who do I contact if I believe I’ve been illegally fired?

Many government agencies protect workers from discrimination and retaliation. For more information, visit the People's Law Library pages:

If you are represented by a union, your union may also be able to help you.

Additionally, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against your employer, either with a lawyer you hire or with the help of a non-profit organization.

  • More information about how to find a lawyer, including free and low-cost options, is available on the Finding a Lawyer page.

 


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Related Pages

Work Law 

Employment Discrimination

Retaliation

Family and Medical Leave Act

Unions and Worker Collective Action

Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Continuation of Health Coverage under COBRA

The information in the People's Law Library is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website is legal advice. The law is complicated and many aspects of the law change regularly. Consider reaching out to a lawyer. More information about how to find a lawyer, including free and low-cost options, is available on the Finding a Lawyer page.