Q: I have a question and was wondering if someone can help me
in answering it. I was recently told that my position was being
eliminated at one of the big four accounting firms. I was told that
they are going to look in another city in the country to staff my
position out of. I was not offered to relocate or to apply for this
position but asked to help train my replacement.
I am an employee at will and not sure if this is legal or not, could someone help me in understanding my options?
A: It sounds like you are in an unfortunate situation. First, I have to
make the assumption that you work in Massachusetts. Employment laws
differ between states, and there are significant differences between
states with respect to employment at will.
Most employees within the US, and in Massachusetts, are employees at
will. Employees working in an at-will arrangement, do not have an
employment contract. An at-will employment arrangement gives both the
employer and the employee the ability to end the employment relationship
at any time. In your situation, since you are an at-will employee,
your employer can terminate your employment at time. However, your
employer still needs to be careful of other employment laws.
If you are at-will, your employer does not have to find you another
role in the US. They also do not have to offer you relocation.
However, that does not mean you cannot ask about open positions
elsewhere and if they would offer any type of relocation assistance.
Although not legally required, I would also ask about severance if you
do not remain employed with your company.
Employers still need to exercise caution when terminating employees.
If an employee participated in a protected activity like whistle
blowing, and then was terminated, this termination could certainly face
legal challenges. Terminations should also be reviewed to ensure that
the termination is not based on an employee’s membership in a protected
class (e.g., age, race, color, etc.). Also, a termination could face
legal challenges if the employee was on a job-protected leave or the
employee participated in an investigation of a discrimination complaint.
Employees are terminated for a variety of legal business reasons,
including a company’s financial performance, moving a company’s
operations, outsourcing a function, or a change in business strategy.
However, a careful analysis should be performed in advance of a employee
For more information about Massachusetts laws and employee
You may contact an employment attorney to review the specific facts
around your termination. One resource that may be helpful is the
Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Services
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.