Ask Cari: What Does “At Will Employment” Mean?

Rincker Law Business/Commercial Law, Employment Law Leave a Comment

The term “at will employment” may be interpreted many ways by a lay person, but it is actually a legal term meaning that either party (employer or employee) may terminate employment at any time without notice for any reason (with limited exceptions), unless there is a contract stating otherwise.  However, a contract may modify that by wording such as “I guarantee you a permanent job with my company.”  Additionally, there may be an implied contract by oral or written representations regarding job security or procedures.  Instead of an actual contract, this can be provided in the Employee Handbook as well.  Similarly, a probationary period without more can imply that there is a contractual right for the employee to complete the probationary period before termination may be reviewable.

Thus, an Employee Handbook should clearly and conspicuously state that it is not a contract and employment may be terminated at any time.  can read something like “The Employee and Employer understand that Employee is an employee-at-will which means that the Employer and Employee have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause or notice.”  It is recommended that employees acknowledge understanding and receipt of the Employee Handbook and that the employer keep this on file.




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