Written By: Sitharam Korrapati
Instructor: Professor Jolanta Pekalska
April 26, 2013
Overview of Employment-At-Will and Exceptions to the Rule
Employment relationships are presumed to be “at-will” in all U.S. states except Montana. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries where employment is predominantly at-will. Most countries throughout the world allow employers to dismiss employees only for cause. Some reasons given for our retention of the at-will presumption include respect for freedom of contract, employer deference, and the belief that both employers and employees favor an at-will employment relationship over job security. At-Will Defined
At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason (except an illegal one), or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. Exceptions to the At-Will Presumption
* Public Policy
* Implied Contract
* Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
* Tort-Based Claims Limiting At-Will Employment
* Promissory Estoppel
* Illegal Discrimination
* Retaliation (whistleblowing)
Introduction to case study
As a manager and supervisor of an accounting department, discuss the following issues related to the employment-at-will doctrine and liability of an employer based on actions and responses to the employee’s behavior and actions. Jennifer, a recent graduate, has recently been hired by your accounting firm out of college. Upon being hired, she engages in a number of different behaviors that need your attention.
Jennifer seems to be unable to learn the computer applications that are basic to her job responsibilities, but, consistently “tells” her boss that she is “a good worker and a genius” and that he does not “appreciate her”. Even after a few months of training and support, she is unable to use the computer tools to be productive and efficient in completing the required tasks.
As a manager of a firm, it is my responsibility to offer all avenues of support (to the extent possible) for an employee to succeed. I will discuss with Jennifer and her immediate supervisor and understand what she think is the best possible course of action to remediate the issue and set her goals with appropriate time bounds and milestones. I will also explain her, my expectations of each milestone and potential consequences of not being able to meet the expectations, including a possible termination of job. I will also provide her some time to think about the goals and sign-off the agreement on the goals. I will also discuss the performance issue with human resources manager, and my intended course of action to remediate and all possible outcomes. I will also recommend Jennifer’s immediate supervisor and human resources manager to counsel Jennifer on any potential personal issues causing the work-life imbalance, and whether we can offer any help from that perspective.
I will have her to introspect her progress on the goal at each milestone and provide me a report. I will review her progress with her immediate supervisor on each milestone and document the results along with her introspection report. At the end of the definitive time, I will review the overall results with Jennifer, her immediate supervisor and human resources manager. Based on the scenario provided, she is very unlikely to reach the goals satisfactorily. With all the documented evidence I will recommend human resource manager to terminate her. In a very unlikely scenario, if she reaches the goal with satisfactory results, then she gets to keep the position and I will update the HR department on the results and request to put that on her file. The Employment-at-Will doctrine does not offer Jennifer any protection...