‘Employment At Will’ A Myth In Today’s Litigious Workplace?

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Broad protections afforded by 'employment at will' doctrine under legal challenge, reports latest edition of the sharedHR Bulletin

Employers have traditionally relied on the “employment at will” doctrine, which allows both employers or employees the right to end the work relationship with or without notice and with or without cause. But the broad protection afforded by the doctrine is coming under legal challenge, reports the latest edition of the sharedHR Bulletin. (http://www.sharedHR.com/news/). SharedHR is a supplier of Web-based services to HR professionals working in small and medium-sized business, and the monthly Bulletin is published on line as a service to its clients.

“Most employers are extremely frustrated to receive advice from employment attorneys or HR professionals suggesting restraint before exercising their right to terminate at will,” said Paul Finkle, President and CEO of sharedHR, and a contributor to the Bulletin. “But an employer facing employment litigation quickly learns the ‘at will’ doctrine has been significantly eroded in many states.”

He points to a recent case study in which a California employer terminated an hourly employee after just three months on the job. “The employer believed he was within his right to terminate at will,” said Finkle. “However, the employee retained an attorney and threatened to sue. The employer settled when he discovered the lawsuit could cost as much as $20,000 to get to a summary judgment hearing, the first step in the process where the case might be dismissed.”

The Bulletin offers several ways to help avoid expensive lawsuits when exercising the “at will” doctrine.

They include:

·    Documenting all actions, and using progressive disciplinary techniques, prior to discharge.

·    Establishing dispute resolution procedures at work. Many employees are driven to litigation because they were never given their “day in court.” Set up a policy to give employees an audience with uninvolved managers to review all the facts before taking action.

·    Using arbitration agreements as an exclusive means of employment dispute resolution. Arbitration lowers the stakes in most discharge disputes.

For a complete list of protective steps to take, point your browser to sharedHR.com/news.

While the ability to terminate without cause technically remains the law of the land, it is unlawful for any employer to terminate an employee based on factors such as race, color, creed, sexual orientation or violation of public policy, said Finkle.

“Employment litigation is expensive, time consuming, gut-grinding and negative for morale; it benefits no one,” said Finkle. “Except in rare circumstances — employment at will is a myth.”

About sharedHR (http://www.sharedhr.com)

Based in San Rafael, Calif., sharedHR is a Web-based Human Resources Management System (HRMS) that lightens the workload for HR professionals. SharedHR supplies a complete library of HR forms, documents and policies—each reviewed and updated as needed to ensure compliance with the latest court decisions and regulatory rulings. SharedHR is the only HRMS solution in the marketplace that helps reduce employment liability risks while manage the intricacies of running today's complex HR function. Visit sharedHR at http://www.sharedhr.com.

Media Contacts:

David Siskin



Tom York

Thomas York Public Relations


This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.


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