“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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Employment Publishing September 2018 Vol.11, No. 44, Summer 2018

Mark Solon

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Mark Solon is the Managing Director of the Legal Division of Wilmington Plc. Mark Solon is acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading experts on expert witnesses, investigatory practice, witness familiarisation and continuing professional development. He is a solicitor, a qualified Attorney at Law in California and has an MSc in Shipping Trade and Finance with distinction from the City University. He has been instrumental in improving the standard of expert evidence over the last twenty years and regularly chairs conferences of up to 500 delegates as well as speaking at many conferences. He has written numerous articles relating to evidence and several books. He has in depth knowledge of the legal and evidential issues around forensic science, emergency planning, surveillance and the work of many specialist intelligence and prosecution agencies. He frequently appears on television and radio dealing with evidential issues. He has been described by one senior expert witness under his cross-examination as “the love child of Stephen Hawking and a Rottweiler.” Mark founded Bond Solon in 1992 and the company has since grown to become the largest provider of law related training to non-lawyers in the UK. He now heads the Legal Division of Wilmington.

Wilmington Plc

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Wilmington turns over around £90m pa and Mark’s Legal Division includes Central Law Training in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Division publishes several legal magazines including Solicitors Journal, Managing Partner, Private Client Advisor and Young Lawyer and provides training, conferences, professional support services and information including legal continuing professional development, expert witness training, databases, magazines and specialist reports. The Division runs around 4000 events every year.

Employment Publishing September 2018 Vol.11, No. 44, Summer 2018