What rights does a worker have whose job is being terminated?

Workers cannot be fired for filing a:

  • Workplace rights complaint.
  • Safety complaint.
  • Injured worker claim.

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  • Expand/collapse Does a business have to take seniority into account when planning layoffs?
  • Not unless there has been an agreement about seniority through a collective bargaining agreement.

  • Expand/collapse Is it legal for a worker to be fired from their job without any notice?

    The law does not require a business to give a worker notice before terminating their job. Nor does the law require workers to give notice before quitting. However, the business may make payment of benefits (such as vacation pay) a condition of the worker giving notice.

  • Expand/collapse Is it legal to be fired from a job for no good reason?

    Yes. Washington is what's called an "at will" state. Businesses may fire "at will." There are no laws regarding dismissal, so businesses are not required to give warnings or follow any particular steps.

  • Expand/collapse May a worker get a written statement from the business with the reason for being fired?

    Workers may request the reason for discharge by sending a written request to the business for a signed written statement of the reason for discharge and the effective date.

    Businesses must respond to the request in writing within 10 days of receipt of the worker’s request. If a worker wants to write a letter requesting a written reason for being fired, the worker should be sure to date the letter, keep a copy of it, and send it to the business by certified mail, return receipt requested. This provides evidence of when the request was sent and whether or not the business received it.

  • Expand/collapse Who can a worker contact if he or she believes the firing was based on a discriminatory reason?

    Workers may seek the advice of a private attorney about filing a suit for wrongful termination. Workers may also contact the Human Rights Commission at 1-800-233-3247 if there is a concern about discrimination based on age (40+), race, sex, marital status, national origin, religion, or physical, sensory or mental handicap.

    Contact the Human Rights Commission:
    Olympia/Western Washington: 1-800-233-3247.
    Seattle/Western Washington: 1-800-605-7324.
    Yakima/Eastern Washington: 1-800-233-3247.

    Another agency to contact about possible discrimination based on a violation of civil-rights laws is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For a toll-free connection to the nearest EEOC office, call 1-800-669-4000.

  • Expand/collapse Are there any laws about what kind of reference a former employer can give?

    L&I has no authority to investigate complaints on this issue. Workers may consult with a private attorney regarding the possibility of a civil suit. RCW 4.24.730 addresses liability immunity for employers who disclose employee information to a prospective employer.

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