At Will – What Does It Really Mean?
put the term “employment at will” means that the
agreement to pay an individual for work performed is for no
specific period of time and can be terminated by any party
for any reason at any time with or without notice. This is
very straightforward. An employer can terminate an employee
if the employer does not like the way the employee combs his
hair. At the same time, the employee can stop working for
the employer for any one of a number of reasons – or
just because he or she does not want to go to work anymore.
So why are so many people confused about the term?
traditional concept of “Employment at Will” is
no longer applicable in today’s work world. An employer
who relies on the status of an “at will” employer
in making termination decisions may be asking for trouble.
Such things as the broadening interpretation of discrimination
laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act, anti-retaliation laws,
whistleblowing and public policy continues to whittle away
at the concept. Under current discrimination legislation,
everyone is a member of a protected class and, therefore,
a potential lawsuit.
employers are understandably confused. Others are even paralyzed
to act for fear of being called into court to justify the
termination of a poor performing employee. The only cost to
the employee who makes a complaint of discrimination or retaliation
is time, while employers spend an inordinate amount of time
and money to defend themselves from these cases. This does
not include the public relations nightmares that can occur
as a result of these complaints. Once the charge gets into
the newspapers, it does not matter if the complaint is justified
or not, all the reader sees is that the company has been accused
of treating employees unfairly.
items may help in determining some of your employment practices:
Make sure your Employment at Will statement is clearly visible
on your applications for employment, offer letters and employee
handbook. There will be times when an you will need to use
the employment at will standard.
a concept of fairness in which an employee is told of performance
or attendance deficiencies and expectations for improvement
before resorting to termination. Document these discussions.
of the worst things an organization can do is to keep underperforming
employees. Aggressively use your introductory periods as
well as performance and attendance standards.
sure you understand your rights and responsibilities with
regard to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, medical
leave, workers compensation and other employment related
regulations. In these instances what you don’t know
can, and will hurt you.
an expert to assist you in these issues.