EMPLOYEES’ RIGHTS: EMPLOYMENT-AT-WILL DOCTRINE AND EXCEPTIONS

WHAT ARE EMPLOYEE RIGHTS?

Every employee has rights at work. Employee rights are the moral or legal obligations an employee needs to fulfill in order to be treated fairly at work. These rights, however, differ based on your working position, such as whether you are an employee or a worker.

  • A worker is someone who has a contract or arrangement to perform work or services on their own time in exchange for payment or another advantage.
  • A person who has an employment contract from their employer to perform regular work is considered an employee.

Although not all workers are employees, all workers are workers. Along with some additional rights and responsibilities, an employee enjoys all the same rights as a worker.

Before you become eligible for specific employee privileges, you might need to work for that company for a set minimum amount of time.

WHAT IS THE DOCTRINE OF EMPLOYMENT AT WILL?

According to the employment-at-will theory, employees are not guaranteed a fixed amount of time to work for a corporation. Both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate an employee’s employment at any time. At-will employment means, in this sense, that both the employer and the employee may decide to terminate it at any time. All employment is considered to be at-will under the law in many areas. This safeguards the employee as well as the employer. An employer may end the employment relationship if they no longer require the employee. On the other hand, this philosophy also recognizes the at-will nature of employment, allowing a worker to resign from their position at any time.

Both benefits and drawbacks of at-will employment exist. Many contend that it primarily safeguards workers, while others contend that it mostly safeguards businesses. There are several exclusions to the at-will employment policy; in general, employers are not permitted to fire someone for unlawful grounds.

For instance, Mary begins working as an IT analyst at a new company under the at-will employment policy. She has the authority to leave her job at any time. Even though giving a two-week notice is common for many positions, at-will employment is exempt from this rule. Mary can leave her job that day if she finds a better one or just decides she doesn’t want to continue working for this organization. Mary has no obligation to give any notice, yet doing so might help her get a good reference from this business.

On the other hand, at-will employment also allows the employer flexibility. Mary’s employer has the discretion to determine if her employment there is problematic. Mary’s dismissal does not require a precise justification; it might be due to budget constraints, poor performance, or even character difficulties. The ideal practice is usually to document problems so that, if Mary feels she was fired illegally and sued the business, the business will be able to prove why Mary was let go. But a reasonable justification is not necessary. Just the firm is protected.

Additionally flexible is the employer with at-will employment. There is no requirement that Mary is retained by the business for a specified schedule or salary. The employer has the right to alter Mary’s working hours, compensation, or employment responsibilities at any moment (the company simply needs to let Mary know about the changes before the work is performed). Mary is free to leave the company if she doesn’t like the modifications.

WHEN COULD IT BE ILLEGAL TO TERMINATE AN AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP?

There are several rather significant exceptions to the general rule that an employer may terminate an at-will employee for any reason. For instance, an employer cannot discharge an employee for the following grounds:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Race
  • origin country 
  • Religion
  • pregnancy condition

A number of protected groups, including these ones, were specifically established by federal, and frequently state law. Additionally, some states, although not all, prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Retaliation is frequently an illegal ground for termination, in a similar vein. For instance, if workers report discrimination, their termination cannot be justified. However, these are merely a few of the situations in which an employer is not allowed to fire an employee for any reason.

CAN AN AT-WILL WORKER FILE A WRONGFUL TERMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST YOUR COMPANY?

Every employee has rights at work. Employee rights are the moral or legal obligations an employee needs to fulfill in order to be treated fairly at work. These rights, however, differ based on your working position, such as whether you are an employee or a worker.employed at will are shielded against unjust termination by federal and state labor regulations. While there are always exceptions, the following frequent circumstances could result in a wrongful termination lawsuit:

At-will employment is replaced by contracts or agreements. The agreement may be in writing or inferred.

Breaking the rules of fairness and good faith. If you fired an at-will employee in order to evade obligations like providing retirement or health benefits or paying a legitimately earned sales commission, the person has the right to take your business to court.

Public policy violation an at-will worker who requests time off to vote may sue your employer if you fire them for doing so.

A worker alleges discrimination. If a company has violated civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation, or if there is perceived discrimination based on race, religion, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and the like, an at-will employee may sue the company for illegal termination.

Retaliation for another incident led to the termination of the employee. If, for instance, an at-will employee was fired after reporting a coworker for sexual harassment, your company could be subject to legal action.

employee fraud It is fraud to assert that the termination of an at-will employee was due to fair cause, such as poor work performance, when the employee’s file shows that their performance was consistently excellent.

In connection with the dismissal, the employer engages in defamatory behavior. Giving phony and/or malicious references that make it difficult for a fired at-will employee to get a new employee is one illustration of this.

EXCEPTIONS

Even though an employment agreement contains an at-will clause, there are several circumstances in which a dismissal may still be unlawful. States will often have different exceptions.

Public Policy Exception

The public policy exception prevents an employer from firing workers who disobey recognized state public policy. For instance, an employee may not be fired in many jurisdictions for submitting a workers’ compensation claim following an injury sustained at work.

Many states don’t permit employers to fire workers for refusing to break the law when asked to do so. There are different standards for what constitutes public policy violations in each state.

Implied Contract Exception 

Because of what the supervisor has done, an employee may have the impression that their employment would be for a set period of time or even be indefinite. This is known as the implicit contract exemption. This can be in the form of remarks made by the employer, a policy of only terminating workers for good reason, or a declaration made in the employee handbook that certain termination procedures will be followed.

Embedded Good Faith and Fair Dealing Agreement

In employment arrangements, certain governments accept an implied covenant of good faith and fair conduct. With this exception, an employer is normally not permitted to fire an employee in bad faith or where the decision to do so was made with malice.

SUMMARY

Documentation is everything. No matter what state you are in, having paperwork to support the termination makes it less difficult legally to fire an employee who frequently violated company policy or demonstrated poor work performance. Nothing can prevent a former employee from suing your business, but having proof that the dismissal was legal and justified will assist you to navigate any legal obstacles.

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