By Mary Wright, Editor
Termination “at-will” means that you can terminate an employee without notice and without cause. Typically, this is paraphrased as: Any time, any reason, so long as it is not an illegal reason (as defined by the state or federal court system or legislature). Although in most states, employment is presumed to be “at will,” an employer can do or say things that restricts this very important right, leaving the employer vulnerable for claims of breach of employment contract or other types of wrongful termination claims.
There are steps, however, that an employer can take to make it clear to employees that words or conduct of managers and supervisors short of a writing signed by an executive of the company does not alter the at-will nature of the employment relationship. One of those steps is to include at will language in your employment application – in bold, larger font, right above the signature, with words to the following effect:
“By signing this application, I acknowledge and agree that employment with Acme Corporation is terminable at will. If I am offered and accept a position with Acme, I understand that I may thereafter quit my job or Acme can terminate my employment without notice and without cause. Nothing in this Application or any documents or handbooks I receive at orientation can alter the at will nature of my employment with Acme. I further understand that only the Chief Operating Officer or Director of Human Resources of Acme can alter this relationship and only in an express writing signed by both of us.”
There are other ways and other provisions that you can adopt in the company’s:
(a) offer letter or contract;
(b) employee handbook or manual;
(c) acknowledgment of receipt of handbook or other orientation materials;
(d) performance evaluations and review forms; and
(e) written records of discipline. These provisions will be the subject of further HR Forms Club posts.
Mary Wright, Esq.
This is my opinion. It is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your internal legal department or employment attorney before using this or any other information obtained through the Internet. Remember, nothing takes the place of advice from a lawyer who knows you and your business.