What is Employment at-will?
Employment at-will is a contractual relationship between employers and employees, where an employer has the right to terminate an employee from their job at any time and for any (or no) reason. With such a contract, employees may also be free to terminate their own position without warning to their employer. There is no predefined legal requirements in terms of notice periods either. This means terminations can be undertaken without any prior notice.
What are the exceptions to Employment at-will?
However, employment at-will comes along with some caveats. Some situations may require either an employer or an employee to follow stricter guidelines than what is usual for employment at-will. Following are a few examples of such exceptions:
1. Employment contracts
An employee who has an employment contract or who is covered under a collective bargaining agreement may have rights not afforded to individuals under employment at-will.
2. Implied contracts
An implied contract may prevent an employer from firing an employee, regardless of whether or not a legal document exists. However, such an agreement can be difficult to validate, and that burden rests with the employee. The employer’s policy book, or new-hire handbook might indicate clauses that support the employee’s claim to only be subjected to termination under a good cause.
3. Good faith and fair dealing
An implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is another exception to employment at-will. Under this scenario, employers are not allowed to fire employees in order to avoid duties, such as paying for healthcare, retirement, or commission-based work.
4. Public policy
Employers are not permitted to fire-at-will of the action violates their state’s public policy exception. Under the scenario, employers aren’t allowed to fire or seek damagers from an employee of the employee’s reason for leaving benefits the public.