Can You Get Fired for Job Searching?

When You Can Get Fired for Looking for Another Job

Co-worker looking at employee computer
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As unjust as it might seem, most employees can be fired for looking for another job because they are at-will employees. At-will employment means that you or the employer has the right to end the employment relationship for any reason, or for no reason, with or without notice. Termination of an at-will employee is legal is practically every state, except Montana, where the employment laws prevent termination for unspecified reasons after a six-month probationary period -- after six months, termination in Montana must be "for cause."

Discriminatory Termination Is Against the Law

Federal and state laws -- including Montana -- prohibit employers from terminating employees for discriminatory reasons such as age, race, religion or gender. Nor can employers terminate workers for reporting illegal actions by their employer or asserting their rights as a worker. But, they can be fired for any other reasons, including the fact that you're looking for another job.

Employment Agreement Protections

In some cases, employees who are covered by individual or union employment contracts may be protected against such a firing, depending on the stipulations in their agreements.  If your employer has language in the employee manual indicating the circumstances under which staff can be terminated, then you might have recourse to appeal a firing if the company states that you are not an at-will employee.  

Job Search Carefully

The best strategy to avoid a firing is to carry out a discreet job search.

Be a low-key job seeker: don't browse job sites at work, refrain from sharing your job search efforts with fellow employees, and avoid taking any phone calls or sending any emails about your job search while in the office. For example, don't boast about interviewing with employers, don't project the job-seeker image by dressing conservatively if your workplace has a casual dress code, and avoid listing your current supervisor as a reference that prospective employers can call for a reference.

You should also refrain posting your resume online where your employer might be able to discover your status as a job seeker. In addition, if a prospective employer notifies you that you're a final candidate for selection, be candid with the hiring manager and explain that your current employee doesn't know that you're looking for another job. If at all possible, ask prospective employers to hold off calling your current employer until they're certain an employment offer is imminent. 

Here are tips for job searching when you’re employed.

Read More: 50 Questions and Answers About Getting Fired | Employee Rights When Your Job is Terminated |   Can You Get Fired Over the Phone?

Related Articles: You're Fired! How to Handle a Termination | 50+ Frequently Asked Questions About Resigning

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