Employment at-will

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Employment at-will

Published about over 2 years ago

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When people speak of the employment relationship being employment at-will, that means that the contract between the employer and the employee provides that the employee may resign at any time, for any reason, and the employer may terminate the employee at any time, for any lawful reason. At-will employment is for an indefinite duration and may be terminated by either the employee or the employer, at any time, with or without notice, with or without cause, for any reason that is not prohibited by law.   Generally, employment is at-will, but establishing and maintaining employment at-will policies can help by discouraging employees and plaintiffs’ attorneys from bringing breach of contract employment claims, reducing the likelihood that the employer will be sued.   Preserving at-will status There are a few things employers can do to maintain the employment at-will relationship, which can protect them from litigation.  Require an employment application Some companies have gotten away from requiring application forms and, instead, rely on resumes and letters of interest.  While these documents may provide helpful information to the company, they should not be accepted in lieu of a completed application form.  Among other things, applications, when properly drafted, assist the company in preserving its status as an at-will employer by requiring the candidate to acknowledge in writing that all employment with the company is at-will. Including a phrase like the one below at the end of the application can give an employer protection from wrongful termination claims:   “I understand that, if hired, my employment will be strictly at will.  That means that my employment is for an indefinite period and that the company or I may terminate the employment at any time, for any or no reason, with or without notice or intermediate steps.  I further understand that no verbal statements or statements in any company policy or procedure manual, employee handbook, or other document shall be construed to have altered the at-will nature of my employment.  No company manager or representative shall be authorized to make any representations to the contrary.” Offer letter disclaimer To avoid the risk of the offer letter jeopardizing the at-will nature of the employment relationship, companies should do two things:  refrain from making any reference to the company’s employee handbook, manuals or employment policies  and include specific at-will disclaimer in the offer letter, such as the following: “As you may know, all employment with our company is at-will, which means that either you or the company will be free, at any time, with or without notice, to terminate the employment relationship, for any or no  Handbook/acknowledgement disclaimers  To minimize the risk of legal liability from employee handbooks or other written policies, employers should include a legally enforceable disclaimer provision in the handbook and acknowledgement form. Other company documents A handbook and acknowledgement form disclaimer, even if well-drafted, may not protect the employer if other provisions in the handbook suggest continued employment or termination only for certain occurrences.  To minimize this risk, employers should include an at-will disclaimer in documents that could imply continued employment for a definite period or termination only for certain occurrences.  Examples include annual bonus or commission plans, disciplinary documentation and performance review plans.  Need more policies and forms?  Our Model Employee Policies and Forms for Employers are packed with hundreds of customizable and downloadable policies and forms.  Simply click, save and print any form or policies or access them from the cloud whenever and wherever you need them.