Today begins an educational and exciting three part blog series that will cover at will employment at will. This three part series will serve to education your organization on the ups and downs of employment at will, and will also make several recommendations as to how you can protect yourself from potential bad situations if the provisions of employment at will are not followed properly.
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While employee-employer relationships are considered to be “at will” throughout the United States, with the exception of Montana, the concept of employment at will remains one of the most misunderstood terms in employment law today.
I recently had a conversation with an employer who wished to terminate one of their employees who had a long history of poor performance and problematic behavior. However the problem in this particular case (as is the problem in many cases) is that nothing had been documented and she had never been formally addressed about the issues. In fact, her performance reviews ranged from fair to good.
As we discussed how to move forward with this employee in the absence of any and all documentation to substantiate her termination, the manager asked “Can’t we just fire her? Our handbook says we operate under employment at will. Let’s just fire her and not get into the details.” Technically, yes, this is true. However, employment at will rarely makes a good termination defense.
While it’s simple in theory, it’s just not that simple in practice. Precaution must still prevail. Many managers feel that since their employees are under at will employment they may fire them whenever they feel like it. There is more to it than that, and this misunderstanding is where many employers get in trouble.
The next post in the series comes out in just a few days and will discuss the legal caveats and exceptions to employment at will. Until then, if you are struggling with a difficult employee termination or even if you think you might be, don’t hesitate to contact IntegrityHR. We’ll keep you out of the courtroom!