At-will Employment Issues

            At-will employment forms a part of the US labor laws and is considered in the plight of both the employer and the employee - At-will Employment Issues introduction. In defining at-will employment, Walsh et al. (2005) noted that, “at-will employment simply means that either the employer or employee is free to end the relationship at any time and for almost any reason” (p. 135). The capacity to terminate the employee-employer relationship for any cause is within the capabilities of both parties with or without contracts. It is a common misconception that only those employees without a contract are covered by the at-will doctrine (Walsh et al., 2005). In reality, it includes those employees who entered into a contract whereby it is stated that their employment is at-will and is subject to the conditions of such.

            Likewise, this has become the norm for most private employees and is mostly the ones available despite the problems it posed to job security because of the limited legal protection given to the employees (Hooloway & Leech, 2003; Walsh et al., 2005).

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            Due to instances of wrongful discharge, exceptions have been made that receives “individual recognition” in the 50 States (Muhl, 2001). These three exceptions include public policy exception, implied-contract exception, and covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Muhl, 2001). The decisions made, however, are still on a case-by-case basis which depends on the situation and the sufficiency of the evidence (Ford et al., 2000).

            The public policy exception rules that a person who is employed at-will is “wrongfully discharged when the termination is against an explicit, well-established public policy of the State” (Muhl, 2001, p. 4). This would cover situations such as when the employer fires the employee because the latter refused to break a law or when the employee acted in compliance with the law and the employer did not like it (Muhl, 2001).

            On the other hand, implied-contract exception involves the statement of employers with regard to the terms of employment and conditions for firing that may be taken from oral and written expressions, even without a legal contract (Muhl, 2001). According to Ford et al., (2000), “Written employment-at-will policies may be contradicted by other written employment policies that arguably confer employment rights” (p. 186).

            Lastly, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which proves to be the broadest of the three, requires that the there should be fairness and justice with regard to the firing of the employee (Muhl, 2001). It has been interpreted in different ways that has made the exception seem broader and in violation of the common characteristics of the at-will employment (Muhl, 2001).

            In the situation provided where Jane was terminated by her immediate supervisor, James, there are several concerns which should be raised. First, the reason as to why James had to fire Jane had to be asked. It could not be immediately assumed that the cause for her firing is the irregularities she discovered and reported. There might be other things that led to the decision of James and if the termination of Jane is found to be based on solely personal and arbitrary grounds, then James would have to respond to the situation and further actions have to be taken to ensure that it would not happen again.

            Second, the irregularities found over the Medicare billings should be inspected and forwarded to the person concerned for review. The person who is liable for such should be consulted and proper legal and administrative actions will have to be made.

References

Ford, K. et al. (2000). Fundamentals of employment law. USA: ABA.

Holloway, W. and Leech, M. (2003). Employment termination: Rights and remedies. USA: BNA Books.

Muhl, C. (2001). “The employment-at-will doctrine: three major exceptions.” Monthly Labor Review. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/01/art1full.pdf.

Walsh, J. et al. (2005). The educator’s guide to Texas school law. USA: University of Texas Press.

 

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