Employment at Will
What is employment at will? According to www.thabalancecareers.com, Employment at will means an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason, explanation or warning. It also means an employee can quit at any time for any reason. (Doyle, A (2018) What Does Employment at Will Mean? – https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-does-employment-at-will-mean-2060493). With employment at will, neither the employee nor the employer has to make any major commitments to one another. One down side to this is that employers can make changes to the employee wages, or benefits, and most importantly the length of employment. An employer cannot fire you, however, based on your race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
Here is something to consider, and something I have been asking myself for a couple of days now. If an employer can fire and employee for no reason at, and at-will employment means that neither you nor the employer commits to each other, then why do they present you with policies and procedures and make you sign documents? When you sign those documents, they are agreements saying you understand and if you violate them then they can terminate you. That seems contractual.
At will, employment is recognized in every state. However, there are three exemptions that are recognized by several states. The first exemption is known as Public Policy Exemption. Public Policy Exemption is very similar to the federal requirements but can also be pursued at a state level. It’s one of the more commonly recognized exemptions. The following states do not recognize Public Policy Exemption: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York and Rhode Island. (What States are At-Will? List of At-Will Employment States.
The next exemption is called Implied Contract. While states still recognize at-will employment, there are states that will have employees sign a contract or the employee handbook, and in those documents, it states the employees will be terminated for just cause or something of the like. The states that do not recognize Implied Contract are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia. I see a lot of commonwealths listed here.
The final exemption is called Covenant of Good Faith. This exemption is very broad and states that employers only terminate an employee for just cause, no matter what the contract states. The states that do recognize covenant of good faith are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming.
I have not been able to find a good argument for why employment at will is a good thing. The only thing I can see is that, with employment at will, the employee can quit any time they want to without notice or good reason. That still seems like a terrible idea, and it leaves the company and other employees in a bind. It is a double-edged sword. It’s also costly for the company. It costs money to hire and train new employees and to also cover the salaries and benefits. Companies do not benefit from employment at will as many people think.
I just lost my job at a great company which is one of the biggest healthcare providers in my area. I lost my job due to social media and nosy coworkers. Someone had gone through my phone oh more than one occasion and found my Twitter account, and also took pictures of it and my text messages using their cell phone. The problem with my Twitter is that it is of an adult nature. Now, I was told by the head of human resources that what I do on my time is my business. The problem was, one photo was taken in one of the bathrooms on the property, even though I was off the clock. I also got in trouble for having a normal picture on there, but because it was linked to an adult account, it was inappropriate. The text messages just appeared that I was having conversations on company time. I was not. It didn’t matter that another employee violated not only my privacy, but also company policy by using their cell phone on company time and to take pictures, which we are not allowed to do in our office. I fought this as hard as I could. I even sought out an attorney. I had no such luck. This is an at-will state, and they couldn’t find a reason to go after my employer because they didn’t violate any major rights, nor did they discriminate against me, even if I felt it was personal. I tried going the civil route as well, with no luck. My performance was never in question, and I even had emails from more than supervisor stating that I had been doing a great job. Does this seem fair or right to you? It didn’t seem fair to me. I just had to suck up and consider it a loss and a lesson in life.
In my personal opinion, employment at will and without just cause is a bad idea. I feel as if someone should not be fired unless their behavior at work hinders their performance or causes harm to others or themselves. If someone is not at work high, intoxicated, or starting fights, sharing very private information, etcetera, then they should be allowed to work and not be fired just because their boss doesn’t like them. If they violate policy, then there are steps to take to correct the action before you just terminate someone.
Doyle, A (2018), What Does Employment at Will Mean? http://(https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-does-employment-at-will-mean-2060493)
What States Are At-Will? List Of At-Will Employment States (https://www.rocketlawyer.com/article/what-states-are-at-will-employment-states-ps.rl)