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What is at-will employment?

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2015 | Business Formation & Planning

Among the most important decisions that you can make during the earliest days of your business in Fort Lauderdale is determining the sort of human resource policies you plan to implement. Among these may be your decision to adopt an “at-will” employment policy. If you choose to employ people at-will, it’s important that you understand all of the nuances that go with this employment philosophy in order to avoid the potential for litigation in the future.

Simply put, an at-will employee is one who works at the will of the employer. This means that you can terminate an employee at any time and without any cause. This, of course, does not allow you to fire employees in cases where the law prohibits. Yet the interpretation of what is the law regarding at-will employment may not always be agreed upon.

The National Conference of State Legislatures lists three common exceptions to at-will employment. They are:

  •          Public policy: This states that generally, an employee can’t be fired if doing so may violate state public policy.
  •          Implied contract: If information disseminated by an employer to employees (i.e., handouts, policy sheets, employee manuals, etc.) conveys a reasonable expectation of employment if policies are followed, these imply a contractual agreement.
  •          Good faith: This exception states that malicious intent cannot be behind a firing.

It should be understood, however, that these exceptions are not mandates or laws, and that states can choose to accept them or not. Florida, as a matter of fact, is one of only three states that does not recognize the exceptions. Thus, an employee cannot use them to challenge you if you decide to fire him or her.