Employment-At-Will Doctrines

Employment-At-Will Doctrines


Employment-at-will doctrine is the rule that permits an employer to terminate employment at any time for a particular reason. Similarly, a worker can decide to terminate employment at any time for a specific purpose without any legal penalties. Employment-at-will also gives an employer the right to amend terms and conditions of employment. For instance, an employer may decide to review salaries, reduce or terminate benefits. According to Callahan & Dworkin (2010), employment-at-will doctrine leaves employees vulnerable to a sudden dismissal or unannounced pay cut. Over the years, employment-at-will doctrine has evolved, and the court has developed exceptions to protect the interests of both an employer and an employee. The first exception is public policy exception. This exception protects employees from harsh consequences if they refuse to accomplish a task that is prohibited by the law (Callahan & Dworkin, 2010). An instance is when an employee refuses to commit an offence an upon employers request. If a person reports a law violation by his/her employer, he or she is exempted from the rule of employment-at-will doctrine. Another category of exception under public policy is an activity by an employee to exercise statutory rights, for instance, filing a claim with an interest to protect state workers benefits law.

The second exception is an implied contract. An implied contract in this case can be a written or oral contract. A supervisor may provide an oral assurance to an employee. For instance, an employer may promise an employee that they do not discharge workers without giving them an opportunity to correct their behavior. However, even though the law recognizes an implied contract, most employees are unable to provide proof in case they want to defend themselves. The third exception is implied covenant. An implied covenant is applicable where an employee is to be compensated out of fair deal or a good will. For example, employment-at-will is exempted, whereby an employer fires a worker in order to avoid paying benefits, such as retirement benefits or sales commissions (Callahan & Dworkin, 2010).

Employment-at-will rule is only limited to those employees that are not protected by an employment contract. Employment-at-will protection mainly goes to those employees who have collective bargaining powers from workers union. However, nonunion workers barely get this type of protection. Legal guideline regarding employment-at-will is continuously evolving to protect the interests of an employer and an employee. The increasing number of lawsuits regarding wrongful dismissal has led to changes in employment contract clauses. Employers advise their personnel managers not to make any promises regarding terms of termination during the recruitment process.

Scenario 1

The act of John criticizing the most important client on his Facebook page is an unlawful act that can make the company lose customers. As an astute manager, I would conduct further investigation on the case and if John is guilty of the matter I should fire him. His concern for taking the matter to social media is not addressing an issue of public interest. Employers should take control of employees and ensure that they do not share confidential information regarding the company to the public. As stated by Fargher & Lee (2013), an employee can significantly harm or enhance the reputation of a company. If John has included the name of the company in his profile, then the reputation of the company can be ruined. As an employee of the company, John has the responsibility of protecting the interests of the company. While solving this matter, the company needs to launch an internet policy so as to limit liability. Internet privacy policy should be developed based on the theory of deontology.

Scenario 2

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Ellens actions are those of a whistleblower. She started a blog to protest the CEOs bonus, noting that no one below the director has gotten a pay rise in the last two years. A whistleblower is a person who speaks out about wrongdoings of a corporation with an interest in protecting the public. A whistleblower may speak out to inform the public about corruption, violation of law, fraud, environmental risks or health violation conducted by an enterprise (Miceli, Near, & Dworkin, 2013). A whistleblower reveals illegal actions by making allegations either to the fellow employees within the organization, the media, talking directly to the public or law enforcement agencies (Robinson, Robertson, & Curtis, 2012).

Whistleblowing might bring disadvantages to an organization but be helpful to other parties who are receiving unfair treatment from the company. Whistleblowing can also be harmful to the whistleblower since he or she can lose his or her employment and jeopardize his or her life. Whistleblowing is a challenging task that requires a person to be brave, honest, and devoted to the search of justice. Fair Labor Standards protect whistleblowers from retaliation effects that they may get from their employers. However, it does not protect workers in cases of salaries and benefits. Ellen should get a punishment for using abusive words and not following the right channel to request for a pay rise. She has the freedom of speech, but she is misusing this right by abusing the CEO. For this reason, I would legally fire her. I would advocate a whistleblower policy, whereby I will create a whistleblower hotline for employees to report their grievances. The whistleblower policy will ensure that employees are protected by partnering with a separate organization, where employees can report their complaints. Every employee has a freedom of speech, and it should make a situation better than before. My decision here is guided by ethical theory of utilitarianism (Halbert & Ingulli, 2012).

Scenario 5

In this scenario, a department supervisor is going to fire his secretary for insubordination. Every employee should perform his/her duties according to the performance contract. The supervisor asks for approval to dismiss the secretary. It is advisable to investigate the matter before approving the dismissal. Upon further investigations, it is discovered that the supervisor had asked the secretary to prepare false expense reports. In such a case the secretary should not be fired because she is protected by public policy exception of employment-at-will doctrine. All the employees have the right not to prepare any reports in favor of their employers. Deontology and virtue ethical theory support my decision in this scenario.

Under Maryland Employment Laws, employment contract is at will contract. Just as many other states, Maryland has exceptions to the rule of employment-at-will. Also, in Maryland employment-at-will policy has three exceptions. They are contract statement, implied covenant, and public policy. An example of employment-at-will is Maryland is Molesworth v. Brandon case of 2011. In this case the plaintiff accused his employer of gender discrimination. Fair Employment Act in Maryland advocates equal opportunities for all genders in employment. Following this policy statement the employer was found guilty of the lawsuit and was judged by the court of law (Callahan & Dworkin, 2010).


Employment-at-will can render employees vulnerable to unfair decisions made by employers, for instance, reduction in benefits of even terms of dismissal. For this reason employees have an understanding of an employment contract before signing it. However, here are three employment-at-will exceptions designed to protect the interests of employers and employees. These exceptions are implied contracts, public policy, and implied covenants. Organizations should have whistleblowers policy to help solve matters affecting the company from within the company. A whistleblower policy should ensure that employees are protected, and employers are accountable for their actions. Whistleblowing can ruin a companys reputation and make it loose its customers.

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