This question was nicely answered for laypeople today by the New York Times workologist.  Readers of this blog already know the answer.

A reader wrote:  “I have a new boss who is very unfair and abrasive to everyone. Hypothetically, would he be allowed to fire me just because he doesn’t like me? And if he did, what could I do procedurally and legally to fight back?”

The workologist correctly noted that “As a legal matter, unless you have an employment contract that says otherwise, he could absolutely fire you because he doesn’t like you. Or because he doesn’t like your haircut, or for no reason at all. ”

He then discussed what we know is the major exception:  you can be fired for no reason at all as long as the firing is not based upon a protected class, such as race, religion, gender, age, disability – everything protected by federal laws such as Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, etc. (and similar state and local laws).


His quote from a professor summed up the answer: “You do not have the right to a fair workplace. You have the right to a nondiscriminatory workplace.”