At Will Employment is a policy that gives employers and employees the ability to terminate the working relationship at will.
The good news is California is an At Will Employment state, and this is a big deal if you are an employer here in California. This employment law provides that employees can terminate their employment with your company at will, and as an employer so can you. However, with that being said there are some areas of caution that employers need to be aware of. This law does not give any employer the right to violate other laws that have also been established here in California and if used incorrectly At Will could be something you may wish you had never used if you use it in correctly.
While the At Will Employment Policy is a huge boon for employers you must be careful how you use it.
- If your company gives out formal reviews and you have been giving an employee great reviews for an extended period of time it would not be wise to terminate this employee based upon your at will policy. The reason for this is very simple this employee has proven themselves to be a good employee, who has added value to your your company and this has been clearly established by your own performance evaluations. A labor law attorney would love to get a case like this, in fact I am not an attorney and I would love to get it. Should you decide to do something like this you will lose nine times out or ten.
- When you use your At Will Employment Policy to terminate an employee you must be very careful as to how you handle the termination. When you terminate the employee they are going to ask you “Why am I being terminated?” Should you tell them anything else other than we have decided to exercise our right as an At Will Employer you will be giving them the foundation to take you to court. It can be very difficult not to tell the employment exactly what may be on your mind for two reasons. The first reason is you are really upset with something that they have done and you really would like to reach out and touch someone only not like the AT&T Commercial. Or, they are a good person who is not working out and you would like to help them. However, should you tell them no matter what the driving force is to tell them you need to know the money you lose could be your own.
- Implied Contracts both verbal or written can destroy your At Will Employment Policy. Saying things like we really like your work a lot and we think that you can be a long term employee. Also verbiage in your employee handbook can destroy your companies at will status. If you have verbiage in your employee handbook that says “up to and including” you have just destroyed your Employment At will Policy. The reason is very simple you have just created an implied steps contract. With that being the case when you terminate an employee using the at will, you have just violated your own employee handbook because there were no steps of rehabilitation offered.
- You want to be careful when it come to terminating protected classifications, for example pregnant women, employees who are older than the median age of your companies employees, this is true especially if the employee has been with your company for a long time. You also want to make sure that you have let a good amount of time pass if you are going to terminate an employee using your At Will status if they have reported the company to Cal-OSHA or filed any kind of formal complaint with a governmental agency.
- Your At Will Employment policy should be stated in your companies employee handbook. The courts want to see this policy stated at the very beginning of your employee handbook. The best place to insert this policy is to have it stated between pages 1-3, the close to page one the better. If you table of contents are numbered then the policy needs to be somewhere between the first and the third page after the table of contents.
- By keeping these points in mind you should do well with this policy. The video at the bottom of the page will really help you as well to understand what you should and should not do. Also if you should have any questions we are only a phone call or a filled out form away. We love questions, and we love employers and protecting employers rights so don’t be shy give us a shout, you will be glad you did.
Once you learn how to use you At Will Employment Status correctly it really can be your best friend. Using this tool correctly can give you a lot of peace of mind be eliminating employees that you would rather not have working for you. Just remember that the employees have the same right as you, which is not a big deal since most employees don’t give much thought to notifying their employer of there intent to quit.