Can an employer deny a promotion to an employee based on his status as a volunteer fireman?

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Can an employer deny a promotion to an employee based on his status as a volunteer fireman?

After applying and interviewing for a promotion, he was denied “because he’s a volunteer firefighter”. Is there some kind of law that would protect volunteer fireman from this and is this discrimination of any kind?

Asked on September 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Actually there is no legal protection for you here. The fact is that most employment relationships are what is known "at will". This means that you can choose to work for an employer or not, and an employer can hire or fire you for any reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.  Additionally, it can set the terms and conditions of employment as it sees fit, including promotions. While seemingly unfair, it is the law.

The exceptions to the above would be if this action violated company policy, a union agreement, or an employment contract.  Also, discrimination must not have played a role in your treatment. In other words you must be in protected class to have legal recourse for a promotion refusal.  Employment discrimination is based on reasons having to do with age, race, religion, gender, and the like.  Unfortunately, being a volunteer firefighter does not put you in such a protected class. Bottom line, your employer has not violated any law.


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