Statistics reveal that approximately four out of every one hundred workers are fired or resign from their jobs each month, and an estimated one million workers are fired from their jobs each year (S.M. SACK 99). Many people who are fired are done so unlawfully. When a company terminates an employee unlawfully it can create astronomical financial burdens from lawsuits filed by these employees. In today's society employees have many rights and are protected by laws. Managers must understand these laws in order to protect themselves and their companies from such law suits. Does employment-at-will have anything to do with the termination of an employee? This will give information on the legal ways to terminate an employee.
Everyday managers are faced with that dreadful task of firing an employee and that question on their mind prior to doing it is probably, "Am I doing this the legal way and will anything come back to haunt me at a later date?" Managers must understand all state and federal laws that pertain to lawful termination and employee rights, the way they do this is by reading company policies and researching all the laws that cover these areas and there are many out there. Therefore, how does employment-at-will work for the employer? The employee? In order to have a better understanding of how to legally fire someone, you must first understand what "employment-at-will" means and what the exceptions to it are. The basic form of the employee and employer relationship in the private sector is employment at will. Employment at will happens when the length of the employment is not for a specific time and there is no written contract. During the time of employment the employee or the employer can end the relationship for any reason with five exceptions, which will support a wrongful termination. The first exception is a contractual relationship; it exists when employers and employees have a legal agreement regarding how employee problems are dealt with. In this type of situation, a discharge may occur only if it is based on just cause. The second exception is statutory consideration; simply put the law is on the employee's side and is there to protect them against any form of discrimination. The third exception is public policy violation; this means that an employee can not be fired because they fail to obey an order from a supervisor that was illegal. The fourth exception is an implied employment contract; this is any written or verbal statement made by members of the company that suggests company guarantees or promises about continued employment. The fifth and final exception is the breach of good faith; this is a Federal law that makes it illegal for employers to terminate a worker based on the employee's race, gender, national origin, disability, religion or age. It also prohibits employers from firing someone because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. An example of wrongful termination in percentages for a year, it found that in 2001, charges filed in court for unlawful termination based on disability alone was 20.4% (Ullmann 2004). Although it may seem so, employment at will does not necessarily mean "at whim" in most states, at least not for employers. According to the Uniform Law Commissioners, a slew of lawsuits starting in the 1980s shot holes in the Employment-At-Will Doctrine, spawn the Model Employment Termination Act. Although employment is still at will on both sides of the fence, states that have adopted the Act now require employers to at least show "good cause" for terminating the employee. But that's only if you are covered by the Act. Even if a state has not adopted the Act, it might have related laws. An employment-at-will agreement might define good cause for termination, as might a policy manual. Still good cause or not, is often a matter of interpretation by the courts or arbitrators. But the Employment-At-Will Doctrine is so strong in...
References: Muhl, Charles J. (2001) Monthly Labor Review.
Niznik, Steve (2002) Employment at Will.
Sack, S.M. (1999). Getting Fired. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc.
Steingold,F.S.(2004). The Employer 's Legal Handbook(6th ed). Berkley, CA: NOLO
Ullmann, V.E.(2004). Labor and Employment Law. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson.
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