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Everything You Need to Know About At Will Employment

What is at-will employment?

In California, the relationship between an employee and employer is known as “at-will” employment. At will employment means that an employer may terminate an employment contract or relationship at any time, for any reason. An at will employee may not have done anything wrong or be given no warning or no reason for the termination. The company can carry out specific termination procedures of employment relationships so long as the reason for firing employees isn’t illegal, such as discrimination based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, an employee’s race, religious beliefs, etc.

At will employment is typically the default employment status for almost every state and is information that can typically be found in your employee handbook or from the company’s human resources department. If an employee signs an employment agreement, they are considered an at will employee.

And the same way a company can terminate an employment relationship without warning, an at will employee can quit their position without reason, too. An at will employee can even break their at will employment rule without revealing that they quit working.

All companies must act in “good faith and fair dealing”

The term “good faith and fair dealing” refers to an implied contract between two parties making an at will employment relationship. Both parties should interact with one another in an honest and fair way as part of an at will employment doctrine.

While at-will employment allows for employees and employers to end work relationships more freely than on a contractual basis, employers must still act in good faith. For example, they cannot break at will arrangements to avoid paying employee wages or offering them workplace benefits.

You aren’t required to agree to at-will employment

If you’re a potential employee that is offered a position at an at will status, it’s imperative to understand that you don’t have to accept the at will rule. You can always ask the employer about other employment contracts, at will policy, or arrangements that protects employees more fully. You can also try to negotiate an employment contract that better suits your desires.

While some companies may withdraw a job offer if a candidate decides not to accept an implied contract, others may not. Employers typically value hiring candidates experience and knowledge over an implied contract exception. When negotiating, focus on the value you bring to a company and explain your reasons for requesting a more secure employment contract. Expressing to your employer your desire to make a long-term commitment to a company could improve your chances of being hired.

The Benefits of At Will Employment

1. Good Work Yields Promotions

Usually contractual jobs base their salary improvements and promotions on seniority. This system is useful for employees with years of experience or a long history in a specific workplace. But an at-will work implied contract doesn’t use those same tactics to promote. Instead, they promote employees based on merit and job performance.

An implied contract allows employees to advance quicker in their careers.

2. More Jobs Become Available

Because an at will implied covenant makes it easy for employers and employees to end their work relationships, there is usually an abundance of new positions for someone who is looking for a new job.

3. More Money in Your Paycheck

While at-will employees do not get the benefits of union protection, they also do not have to pay extra union fees. This results in fewer paycheck deductions and more money in an employee’s pocket.

4. Less Likely to Strike

When on strike, employees do not earn income from their jobs, which makes them going on strike less common. Also, they run the risk of being replaced by workers who are more willing to take their positions.

5. No Limitations on Growth

Employees who follow the at will rule are not bound by the limitations of a typical employment contract. If an employee is offered a different job that pays more and fulfills them better, they can end their good faith agreement without penalty. However, giving their employer the standard two weeks notice before breaking the implied covenant is a strategic move in getting said employer to vouch for their skillset in their next position.

Disadvantages of an At Will Agreement

1. Less job security

Employers don’t have to provide notice for ending an at will agreement, which gives the employee less job security. This can lead to workplace stress, but also a desire to perform well for job evaluations so they are not terminated.

2. A Competitive Workplace Culture

An at will doctrine can promote a company culture that is more competitive and cutthroat because theoretically, everyone who performs well under an at will relationship is up for a promotion.

While employees should be subjected to an annual or monthly labor review at the employer’s request to review performance, employees can be competitive with each other to outshine the other.

3. More Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is refers to how often employees leave a company. The nature of an implied covenant of good faith workplace leads to high turnover rates because no one is under a contractual agreement.

4. Less protections

When working as an at-will employee, a California worker is protected by many labor laws, but they do not have the same private protections as unionized workers or contracted employees. However, even if an at will employee feels they have been victim to wrongful termination or a victim of gender identity discrimination, they can contact an employment law attorney to help them navigate if legal action needs to be taken against their at will employer.

Employers Must Follow State and Federal Law During the Termination Process

Employers must terminate employees under their covenant of good faith in a fair and reasonable manner. If not, an employee can contact an employment law attorney to file wrongful termination claims.

Call Lawyers for Justice, PC today. We are an employment law firm who fights for California employees to make sure they are protected in the workplace. Call (818) JUSTICE.