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I used to work as a contractor for a construction company, when one day, a manager brought me over and casually said "I'm letting you go." So I checked out early because I had asked to go home early that day.

I come back the next 3 days and work, business as usually, when on the third day the same manager appeared and became irate with me still being on the field. I had apparently been dismissed when he said "let go" and refused to pay me for the time I had worked already.

I had threatened legal action and he eventually surrendered what he owed me, but now I am wondering how it might've played out had he not.

My question here is, how clear must an employer's language be before an employee's dismissal is effective?

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    He certainly should have been clearer. As to the requirements, well, you'd probably need to consult your contract. It seems Texas is an at-will employment state, but a contract (which I hope you had, as a contractor), can override that. Was there another person present when he told you this? – childofsoong Mar 17 '16 at 23:08
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    The federal standard for employment, as used in federal minimum wage laws, is "suffer or permit to work." In other words, if an employer subject to the FLSA allows you to work, he generally has to pay you at least minimum wage for it. It would stand to reason then that the employer has to actually stop you from working if they don't want you to, well, work. – Zach Lipton Mar 19 '16 at 6:39
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"I'm letting you go" can mean "I'm terminating your employment" but it can also mean "I'm letting you go home now since you asked to leave early".

Terminating s contract is effective when one party communicates it to the other party. The onus is on the initiating party to make sure that the communication is clear and unambiguous.

There are no certainties but you would probably have won.

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