At Will Employment
At Will Employment Definition
At will employment is also called employment at will and hired at will. All terms mean that, in the absence of contracts or agreements that indicate otherwise, employment is presumed to be voluntary and indefinite for both employees and employers under the Doctrine of Employment at Will.
Grammatically speaking, the term at will should be hyphenated, as in at-will employment (but not as in employment at will). We've omitted the hyphen to make it easier to find this article in a Web search.
In other words, at will employment means that employees may generally quit their jobs at anytime and for any, no or even unfair reasons.
By the same token, employers may generally fire or layoff employees at anytime and for any, no or even unfair reasons. (That's the inference of the saying, "I serve at the pleasure of the board of directors.") However, employers are limited by exceptions, several of which are noted on the next page.
At will employment also means that employers may decline to hire job candidates for any, no or even unfair reasons, except for those noted on the next page.
Lastly, employment at will means that employers generally may change the terms or conditions of employment at anytime and for any reason; for example, an employer may change an at will employee's job description, work location, shift or pay, as long as the change is not in violation of an employment, labor or discrimination law, or in breach of an employment contract or agreement.
All states enforce at will employment to some degree. To ensure at will employees know that their employment is voluntary and indefinite, and to help avoid employee lawsuits, employers may legitimately ask employees to sign contracts or agreements that document and enforce the terms of at will employment.
Alternately or additionally, employers may document the terms of at will employment in policy manuals or similar documents, and then ask employees to sign contracts or agreements acknowledging that they've received, read, understand and will adhere to the terms. Many states consider policy manuals and similar documents to be enforceable implied contracts between employers and employees.
As indicated above, employers and employees may legitimately waive certain at will employment rights through contracts and agreements. For example, union-employer collective bargaining agreements might stipulate the terms and conditions under which employers may and may not discharge union-protected employees under the Doctrine.
The next page generally explains the Doctrine of Employment at Will along with exceptions that potentially render it inapplicable.
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