When employers make written offers of employment or provide written employment policies to employees, such as Employee Handbooks, it is generally advisable for the employer to include a disclaimer stating that the employment is at-will. The purpose of an at-will disclaimer is to prevent an employee from mistakenly believing that he or she is entitled to employment for a specified period of time or is entitled to other protections with respect to the employment.
In most cases, the following language will be sufficient to disclaim any intent to alter the at-will employment relationship:
Employment with the Company is at will unless otherwise stated in a written agreement signed by the President of the Company. This means that either the Company or the employee can terminate the employment at any time and for any reason, with or without notice.
Employers should be careful, however, with respect to language that suggests “that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified, or altered in any way.” An administrative law judge recently held that language interfered with employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Takeaway: The presumption that employment is at-will is an important protection for most employers. By including at-will employment disclaimers on key documents, employers can increase the odds that they will be able to benefit from the protections of the employment-at-will doctrine.