At Will Employment: How It Affects You As An Employer

by : KMArticles

If you're not sure whether you are an at will employer it can be helpful to find out. The basic idea of at will employment allows an employee to quit a job without advance notice and without worrying about breach of contract. So it also allows employers to hire as well as fire employees for any reason - at least as long as you're not violating any other laws in doing so.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees file more than 80,000 complaints each year based on discrimination. And, each year, these complaints resulted in more than $230 million in monetary relief. While race discrimination accounted for the largest portion of complaints, many others were on retaliation, age, sex and disability.

And, many of these were from termination complaints.

Now what does this mean for you?

Considering the large number of complaints filed each year and the percentage which result in monetary benefits, it is important to understand the area of at will employment and how it affects employers.

Does At Will Employment Allow You To Hire Or Fire For No Reason?

The answer to this is twofold. As long as you are acting within the letter of the law, then yes you can hire or fire for no reason at all within the scope of at will employment. This means you can choose not to hire someone because you believe they may not be a good fit in your company - as long as your decision does not violate any employment laws. (And, there are many!!!)

You can also choose to fire someone because they are not meeting performance expectations or even if they have a bad attitude.

At will employment; however, does not allow you to fire someone because they are disabled. And you also cannot legally elect to pass over a job candidate because they are female or Hispanic and so on.

The bottom line is you cannot use at will employment as justification to fire based on reasoning that is illegal. As long as your decision is job related, lawful and nondiscriminatory, you can still justify it under at will employment.

Therefore, you can fire an at will employee for any reason ... except for illegal reasons. But be careful, because there are over usually over 40 to 60 employment laws (depending on your state) that protect the employee in some way. This is why it's so hard to terminate an employee based on "at will" alone.

Does At Will Employment Need Justification Of Hiring Or Firing Decisions?

Considering the large number of suits that employees file each year, it is important for you to document thoroughly all decisions. Therefore, if an employee and his attorney file a discrimination claim, you can prove your decision was lawful and nondiscriminatory in nature.

This requires excellent written documentation. Make all efforts to keep your documentation factual, objective and accurate. It should also be specific. Training all managers and supervisors in the accurate and fair evaluation of staff will ensure that you will avoid the problems coming from illegal terminations.