“At-Will” Employment: Is It As Easy To Sack A U.S. Employee As You’ve Heard?
Mark Solon, Managing Director & Solicitor, Wilmington Plc, UK
You’ve been assigned responsibility for, among other things, managing employment law issues for your company’s U.S. operations. Your contacts in the U.S. have attempted to alleviate your anxiety about this new and unwelcome development by assuring you there is nothing to worry about since workers in the U.S. are employed “at-will”. The reference to the mysterious doctrine of “at-will” employment is intended to provide you with comfort -- a cure to all that could possibly go wrong when hiring or managing employees in a foreign country known to have a workforce that is litigious. Nevertheless, you have diligently requested information about the hiring and termination processes used in the U.S. operations and have expressed interest in becoming more involved in the decision-making process. Your U.S. managers have dismissed your efforts, reminding you that U.S. employees are “at-will”. They seem so confident when waiving off your concerns that, despite having an unsettled feeling this “at-will” thing is too good to be true, you have relented and no changes have been made. You have since held your breath each time the U.S. operations hires, disciplines or terminates an employee, and, thankfully, your company hasn’t been sued. As a result, you have started to wonder whether this is because the “at-will” doctrine is as miraculous as the U.S. managers have led you to believe or whether the Company has simply been lucky. This article is designed to pull the curtain away from the enigmatic “at-will” concept and help you to decide whether your company’s hiring, discipline and termination practices need to change before its luck runs out.
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