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Getting Fired

Reviewed January 2022- Fair Employment Project

When can I be fired?

Many workers get hired and do not get a written contract. If you do not have a written contract, your boss may fire you for almost any reason.

If you do have a written contract, there may not be an end date to your job. If you and your boss did not agree about when you would stop working, she can fire you for almost any reason. Often, she does not have to give you any warning. If your contract says that you can only be fired for certain reasons, and your boss fires you for another reason, she is breaking the law.

An employee manual is not a contract, and your boss will likely not have to follow what it says in order to fire you. Still, there are some special cases where your boss may have to follow parts of a manual as if it were a contract.


Your boss cannot fire you because you are protecting your rights at work. Sometimes people get fired because they know or complain about something that is illegal at work. This is called “retaliation.” See Defending Your Rights.

It is also illegal for your boss to fire you because of your age, pregnancy, disability, national origin, ethnicity, race, color, religion, ancestry, genetics, gender identity, sexual orientation, or because you were involved in a discrimination complaint.

Does my boss have to tell me she is going to fire me ahead of time?

Probably not.

But, if your boss has at least 100 workers, she must give you 60 days’ notice before any mass layoff or plant closing.

When should I be paid if I am fired or laid off?

If you are fired or laid off, your boss must pay you your full wages on your last day of work. She must also pay you for any unused vacation you have earned and, in some cases, for unused sick time.

Can I get unemployment insurance benefits if I am fired?

For more information about unemployment insurance benefits, see Can I get unemployment insurance if I am fired?.

Where to go for help

If you think you have been discriminated against at work, contact The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), (617) 994-6000.

If you think you were fired because you were protecting your rights, contact The Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s Office, (617) 727-3465.

See the Anti-Retaliation poster and other Workplace Rights materials from The Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General's Office.

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