I have a friend who began a job at a large firm as an auditor at the end of 2017. The nature of this work is that there are two seasons: a busy season (Q1 and part of Q2 of any given year) and a slow season (the rest of the year). This feature of the work is part of what is advertised to new employees. This friend worked the busy season (60-80 hr weeks) and was recently fired as the slow season (20-40 hours) approached. Is it lawful for an employer to terminate an employee under the (here false) pretense of receiving some benefit (here shorter hours) for extremely difficult work (very long hours) at the beginning? This is of course assuming that the employee was doing fine work and was only fired since their use had already run its course. It feels as though this should not be allowed since, as an employer, I could continually higher people to do difficult work in the promise that something great will return later. It seems like a way to (essentially) hire hourly workers and require them to work overtime while not paying overtime (after reading the laws I believe this friend was exempt from overtime pay).

If it helps, the state is Washington.

  • It makes me wonder if a meeting of the minds occurred in the employment contract, or if the employer misrepresented the employment contract. Apr 5, 2018 at 19:49
  • 3
    @JimMacKenzie: Is there reason to think that there is any meaningful employment contract? In at-will jurisdictions, commonly no explicit contract is signed, and the implicit contract is "Employee will do whatever work is assigned, and get paid the agreed salary. Either party may terminate at any time." Apr 5, 2018 at 20:48
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    You can solve this problem by not working in a jurisdiction that allows immediate termination without cause, like all/most of the USA. Fairness is often irrelevant, especially where the system is designed to ignore it (like USA employment law).
    – user4657
    Apr 5, 2018 at 23:08
  • Depending on the type of work... It might be possible to argue that the work should have been hourly instead of exempt... Say for example someone who is a "Waste disposal manager" but actually has the job of a janitor, would be considered to be a janitor and not eligible to be an exempt (salaried) employee.
    – Questor
    May 25, 2023 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


Washington State is an "At Will" employment state meaning that, with exception to some protected classes and bargaining, the employer may terminate the employee for any reason the employer can cite, or no reason at all. If the firm used it as a benefit of the job but it wasn't agreed upon on the contract, its not a deception as if you can hold the job to the down season, you have less work to do. If a promise was made for employment into the down season during the negotiating of the job, and this was documented, it could be. It could be that he did all the work required of him, but another higher went above and beyond and he got the ax because he was the newest and the lesser performer.

Either way, the employer is well within their right to fire an employee for any reason they choose absent discrimination based on protected class status.

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