Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
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Employment in all states but Montana is "at will" absent an express agreement to the contrary. At will employment can be terminated for any reason not amounting to discrimination on the basis of a legally protected trait (race, religion, gender, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in certain forms of legally protected conduct (filing a wage claim, taking FMLA leave, etc.). It doesn't matter whether the basis for termination is fair, reasonable or even true. Therefore, it would not be illegal to terminate an employee based on the text message you describe. It wouldn't matter if the text was a joke, or if the text was sent after hours. Since employment is at will, it can be terminated by either party at any time.
I hope that you find this information helpful and am genuinely sorry if it is not what you were hoping to hear. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.
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