What is "at-will employment"?
The "at-will doctrine" is a rule of contract law.
"At-Will" means that an employee can quit at any time and an employer can fire an employee at any time and for any reason.
Read any employee handbook and you will find those words. Sounds like a logical arrangement on the surface doesn't it?
When the at-will doctrine is applied by a court, here is what the "AT-Will Employee" can expect in regard to his or her rights at the workplace:
A job that is described as "permanent" does not mean that it will last forever. It means only that the job is not temporary or not seasonal.
The employer can discharge the employee at any time without even an explanation.
The employer can discharge the employee for absolutely any reason. For example, simply because the employee asked for a day off.
The employer can discharge the employee without any warning. For example, for the very first time the employee is late.
The employer can discharge the employee without offering the employee any kind of "hearing" or chance to explain.
The employer is not required to give an employee two-weeks notice, or any advance notice at all prior to discharge.
The employer is not obligated to tell the employee the reason for the discharge.
The fact is that the at-will doctrine provides an employee no job protection at all.
Here are a few differences between the At-Will employees workplace and the employee who works under a written CONTRACT:
A contract between the employer and employee provides greater protections for the employee.
A collective bargaining agreement between a union and the employer provides for discharge only if there is "just cause."
Wrongful discharge in violation of the written contract is a labor law violation.
IF YOU DO NOT WORK UNDER A CONTRACT read the employer's handbook, manual, or policies and you will probably realize that the "deck" is stacked heavily in the favor of the employer, who unilaterally wrote those documents.
The best part of the employee handbook for the employer is that if an employee EVER finds something in the handbook that could make him or her "right" and the company at fault or liable for something - EVERY EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK CONTAINS A CLAUSE THAT SAYS THAT THE EMPLOYER CAN CHANGE THE HANDBOOK AND ANY OR ALL OF ITS CONTENTS AT ANY TIME THE EMPLOYER CHOOSES.
Can you say paid slaves? Or better yet, in most cases, low paid slaves? What rights do "At-Will" employees have that the non paid slaves of the past didn't have? The sad answer is that they only have the rights that are provided by the passage of laws.
Thankfully, the At-Will Employees have also benefited from the struggles of the AMERICAS UNIONS - who fought for and won each and every right the AT-Wills have that was LEGISLATED and MADE LAW. It is organized labor who fights for all workers rights and for the passage of every labor law we have AND WILL EVER HAVE.
And by the way, the same people who wrote those employee handbooks fought the passage of every one of those labor laws that we all enjoy and take for granted today.